Employees come with intrinsic qualities, skills, and styles. Some naturally mesh better with an organization than others. We need fortitude, for example, in start-ups where hurdles and long hours are the norms. We desire problem-solvers to help smooth the way when something new is required. We may seek those who challenge ideas and push a team beyond its normal boundaries.
Pre-employment tests are often used to whittle down applicants based on desired qualities. Skill tests, for example, might gauge a machinist’s ability or a video editor’s skill with software. Measuring an applicant’s expertise in an expected job function surely is wise. But what about personal attributes and their influence on workplace collaboration and the environment?
Personality tests abound with purported abilities to distinguish extroverts from introverts, promoters from followers, thinkers from doers, promoters from challengers. Each characteristic may add or detract from an organization’s distinctive work environment, depending on what a team needs.
Examine Your Values
Sure, we want hard-working, dedicated employees. Ambition and courageous leadership are good to see. Top salespeople are highly valued and compensated for good reason. And, yet, many bold leaders had ultimately fallen from their esteemed positions when they lied and cheated their way to fame or fortune. We must find colleagues who are better than that.
Without a doubt, if you had to identify the most-valued personality characteristic, it is integrity: the intrinsic moral compass that requires honesty and compels a person to do the right thing. This must be the single, greatest core value that you seek and, even more importantly, uphold by example.
Companies can use integrity tests to measure an applicant’s view on theft, honesty, and gray ethical areas. When we seek honesty, dependability, and trustworthiness, we will consequently find conscientious employees whose decisions will protect and improve a company. The tests may not be perfect assessments, any more than an interview is perfect, but they could spotlight areas of concern.
Seeking the Truth(ful)
There are various ways to get some mark of a job seeker’s integrity. Combined with good judgment, these methods could increase the likelihood of hiring a more honest employee.
Formal tests include polygraphs and written assessments. Polygraphs measure bodily changes that often accompany lying, but employers can no longer legally use them in most places. Written and computer-based tests, on the other hand, are still allowed and have a good base of research showing their reliability.
Written tests will include questions based on scenarios to anticipate behavior: if a person would leave early if the boss is out of the office, whether they consider office supplies something that can be used at home, how they would handle the knowledge of another employee’s theft. They indicate an applicant’s attitude toward dishonest behavior and whether they can be righteous when confronted with a work place’s moral dilemma.
Quality tests have high levels of validity—the ability to get consistent scores from the same person—and have been shown to uncover tendencies toward violence, sabotage, absenteeism, and other disciplinary issues. And integrity tests are consistent among men, women, and different races, eliminating concerns about bias.
If testing doesn’t fit your business model or budget, there are still many options to employ. Check references and verify prior employment to unearth fabricated dates and whether or not an employee can be rehired. Even though allowable questions are very limited these days, you will get a feel for how the employee was viewed in the eyes of prior employers.
Ask blunt questions in your interview. Years ago, when applying for a retail job, I was asked rapid-fire questions that left little time to dance around the answers. Among the questions about favorite color and what I had for breakfast were queries about a single word to describe myself and if I preferred quantity over quantity. Granted, the interviewer had to make his own judgments based on the answers, but that’s what interviews are for anyway.
Check their credit and vehicle reports to see if they pay their bills, register their car, and generally follow basic laws. Randomly use drug tests and on-premise searches, where legal and appropriate, to reveal those who are not following company policy. Stealing is a terminatable offense, and unauthorized drug use is a catalyst for lies.
Why It Matters
Simply put, integrity matters because your personal conscience and business reputation are at stake, too. Although profits undeniably are the goal of any for-profit organization, the real challenge is achieving those goals without sacrificing personal honor and integrity. This means that leadership must instill this foundational value, demonstrate it daily, and seek it in others.
We must make decisions every day where criteria are based on doing the right thing. If we make good decisions for the betterment of the company and expect the same of the whole team, the result will take care of itself. Pre-employment integrity testing may be an arrow in your quiver. When paired with your own commitment to a unified goal, executed well, and with integrity, the positive financial results will follow.
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