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The integrity test

Kathleen Quinn Votaw //May 26, 2011//

The integrity test

Kathleen Quinn Votaw //May 26, 2011//

What do you do with an employee who takes a few pens or paper clips home now and again? What about someone who’s chronically late to work … and the person who’s prone to emotional outbursts? Each of these employees is a thief of sorts-whether they’re stealing supplies, time, or everyone’s productivity. What other breaches of integrity are these people capable of, and how much will it cost you?

You’ll be able to weed out candidates likely to engage in theft, drug use, workplace violence and many other undesirable or deviant behaviors if you add an integrity test to your battery of pre-hire assessments. It’s all part of finding and keeping top talent-and ensuring a culture of integrity.

Assessing your assessments

A number of assessments help you hire the right people for your company. The first is often a background check-necessary, but not every future troublemaker has a history of problems. Or the kind of problems they have may not be caught in a background check.

Criminal records, for example, will only tell you about offences where the candidate was prosecuted and convicted. Credit checks, which the majority of employers conduct at least for select jobs, tell you whether someone was late paying a bill, or has declared bankruptcy. But they don’t tell you the circumstances around these defaults, which could have been the fact that they lost their job or had a major budget-breaking illness in the family. There has been a backlash against credit checks, which many people consider an invasion of privacy, and some states have now outlawed them.

What you need to augment background screening is a tool that provides a better understanding of the emotional makeup of candidates and predicts likely future behavior. Integrity tests give you this information with accuracy that stems from the common characteristics found in people with low integrity, such as being dishonest and unreliable. According to, about 30 percent of applicants score below standard on integrity tests, allowing you to save time and money by eliminating this bottom third from consideration.

Integrity tests are not a replacement for background checks. They are a cost-effective addition to the various assessments you already include to ensure that your hiring due diligence is what it should be.

The cost of low integrity hires

Although integrity testing has been around in one form or another since the 1950s, psychologist Kelly Dages has found new applications for it in organizations. Dages was looking for a less controversial alternative to bank credit checks and determined that testing for integrity is not only a good predictor of loan defaults, but also foretells costly bad behavior at work.

For example, the securities organization ASIS International recently studied a major North American retailer that began using an integrity test in about 600 of its 1,900 locations. After a year, the sites using integrity testing saw an “inventory shrink” (aka theft shrinkage) of 35 percent. And their employee turnover improved by 13 percent, saving the cost of rehiring and retraining.

Similarly, Cornell University cites a hospitality company that screened 29,000 applicants for integrity, and hired about 6,100 of them. The workers’ compensation claims for the new employees were compared with those of current employees who had not been screened for integrity. The data showed that the average annual cost per employee for workers’ compensation was more than three times higher for unscreened existing employees than for the new hires who had been screened for integrity.

The savings realized by screening out potentially expensive hiring mistakes and reducing theft and absenteeism more than make up for the typically reasonable cost of conducting integrity tests.

Affirm integrity / affirm your culture

Workplace integrity isn’t just about stealing. It’s also about how people treat their fellow employees and your customers. Employees’ behaviors and interactions with one another can influence and even define your culture.

The consequences of hiring people who lie or steal; drink or take drugs on the job; have emotional or even violent outbursts; show racial, ethnic or gender prejudice; risk safety; can’t commit; are consistently late; or resent supervision have enormous impact on both people and work environment. Integrity tests reveal all of these behavioral characteristics by measuring attitudes and motivations that predict likely future behavior.

By affirming the integrity of candidates as part of your hiring process, you ensure that your culture is built on values like honesty, trustworthiness and reliability. With a culture built on those kinds of values, I predict your future success.
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Kathleen Quinn Votaw is founder and CEO of TalenTrust, a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm that helps companies accelerate their growth by hiring exceptional talent. TalenTrust LLC is located in Golden, CO. Kathleen is president of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), Denver. Reach Kathleen at [email protected] or 303-838-3334 x5.