Pre-Employment Physical Exam Everything You Need to Know

Pre-employment physical exams are a common requirement for many jobs, particularly those in physically demanding industries like construction or healthcare. These exams are designed to ensure that potential employees are physically able to perform the job duties required of them and to identify any potential health risks that may affect their ability to work.

If you’re a job seeker, you may be wondering what to expect from a pre-employment physical exam. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what these exams entail, why they’re required, and what you can do to prepare.

What is a pre-employment physical exam?

A pre-employment physical exam is a medical examination that is typically required as a condition of employment. The exam is designed to evaluate a candidate’s overall physical health and to determine whether they are physically capable of performing the job duties required of them.

During the exam, a healthcare provider will conduct a thorough physical examination of the candidate, which may include:

  • Medical history: The healthcare provider will ask the candidate about their medical history, including any pre-existing conditions or injuries.
  • Vital signs: The healthcare provider will measure the candidate’s vital signs, such as their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.
  • Physical examination: The healthcare provider will perform a physical examination to evaluate the candidate’s overall health, including their strength, flexibility, and mobility.
  • Laboratory tests: The healthcare provider may order laboratory tests, such as blood or urine tests, to screen for any underlying medical conditions.

Why are pre-employment physical exams required?

Pre-employment physical exams are required for a variety of reasons. For some jobs, such as those in healthcare or emergency services, physical fitness and health are critical for job performance and safety. In other industries, pre-employment physical exams may be required to comply with occupational health and safety regulations or to reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries.

Employers may also require pre-employment physical exams to identify any potential health risks that could affect a candidate’s ability to perform the job duties required of them. By identifying these risks early, employers can take steps to accommodate the employee and reduce the risk of workplace injuries.

The objective is to ensure that the potential employee can safely perform the tasks required for the position and to verify that the individual does not pose a risk to themselves or others. Here’s a general overview of what might be included in a pre-employment physical:

  1. History Taking:

    • Medical history
    • Surgical history
    • Current medications and allergies
    • Occupational history (previous jobs, exposures)
    • Lifestyle habits (smoking, alcohol, exercise)
    • Family medical history
  2. Physical Examination:

    • Vital signs (e.g., blood pressure, pulse, temperature, respiratory rate)
    • General appearance
    • Examination of the heart, lungs, abdomen, eyes, ears, nose, and throat
    • Musculoskeletal assessment, including range of motion and strength testing
    • Neurological evaluation
  3. Specific Assessments (based on job requirements):

    • Hearing test (audiometry)
    • Vision test (Snellen chart for distance and near vision, color vision, depth perception)
    • Respiratory function test (spirometry)
    • Cardiac stress test (for positions requiring extreme physical exertion)
    • Lifting/carrying tests
    • Mobility and flexibility assessments
  4. Lab Tests and Screenings: (if required or indicated)

    • Blood tests (complete blood count, blood chemistry)
    • Urinalysis
    • Drug and alcohol screening
    • Tuberculosis skin test or chest X-ray
  5. Vaccinations/Immunizations: (if required for the position)

    • Hepatitis B, Tetanus, etc.
    • Verification of immunity or vaccination status
  6. Additional Tests:

    • EKG (electrocardiogram) for heart assessment
    • Chest X-ray
    • Bone density scan (for specific positions)
    • MRIs, CT scans, etc., as deemed necessary
  7. Fitness for Duty Assessment:

    • The examining physician will provide an opinion on the applicant’s ability to perform the specific job tasks without risk to themselves or others. This might include any recommended accommodations.

How to prepare for a pre-employment physical exam

If you’re scheduled to undergo a pre-employment physical exam, there are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Review the job requirements: Make sure you understand the physical demands of the job and any specific requirements for the exam.
  • Bring any necessary paperwork: If you have a pre-existing medical condition, bring any necessary paperwork or documentation to the exam.
  • Get plenty of rest: Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the exam to ensure you’re well-rested and alert.
  • Wear comfortable clothing: Dress comfortably for the exam, wearing loose-fitting clothing that allows for easy movement.
  • Be honest: Be honest with the healthcare provider about any pre-existing conditions or injuries you may have. Providing accurate information will help ensure that you receive the appropriate care and evaluation.


It’s important to note that pre-employment physical exams must adhere to laws and regulations related to employment and medical examinations. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws regulate what can be asked and examined during pre-employment physicals. Employers cannot discriminate based on disability and must provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals.

Pre-employment physical exams are a common requirement for many jobs and are designed to ensure that potential employees are physically able to perform the job duties required of them. By understanding what to expect from the exam and taking steps to prepare, job seekers can help ensure a smooth and successful evaluation.