Can integrity be tested?
Integrity is an important concept in staff recruitment. The damage that dishonest behaviour causes can be enormous. It varies from behaviour that impacts productivity, such as turning up late or petty theft, to serious fraud. The newspapers regularly feature organisations that have sustained serious damage and have even gone belly-up due to integrity violations.
Scientific research has shown that integrity tests contribute to the predictive value of an assessment. Organisations in general benefit from subjecting staff to integrity tests. Below we discuss three integrity tests that can be applied for this purpose.
What is integrity?
Integrity is a complex concept. Definitions abound, in which behaviour and the motives for that behaviour are central to the discussion. You are an honest person when:
- Your behaviour is in line with the regulations and generally-accepted principles, even when pressure is applied or the rules are vague.
- You do not let yourself be governed by inappropriate motives but by the common interest. You do not fall into temptation to bend the rules, not apply them or interpret them too loosely.
- Your behaviour is consistent and you take responsibility for your actions.
Click here for various definitions of integrity.
In real-life situations, the distinction between honest and dishonest behiour is usually pretty clear. At issue here are the grey areas where the rules themselves are not always crystal-clear. Organisations in general should be unequivocal about what they expect from staff from an integrity perspective and what they view as integrity violations. The majority will then tend to behave honestly. In addition, it is important to swiftly address integrity violations, particularly at senior management level. They say that “fish stink from the head down”; exemplary behaviour is required from company executives to nurture a healthy integrity culture.
Risk mitigation through integrity tests
Even when your policy guidelines are cast in stone, not everybody will conduct themselves in an honest way. Organisations can limit this risk by applying integrity tests. These tests should ensure that fewer people of questionable integrity are recruited. The Test-Toolkit offers integrity tests to assess candidates in this area and to bring this concept into the open at an individual level:
- Open integrity test;
with questions about real-life integrity violations
- Moral Standards;
this integrity test provides insight into norms and values that determine behaviour
this integrity test indicates a way to handle moral dilemmas.
1. Open integrity test questionnaire
The open integrity questionnaire delves directly into potential previous integrity violations and raises the stakes from slightly disfunctional symptoms through traffic violations to criminal behaviour. The goal of this truly transparent questionnaire is to make it absolutely clear to candidates that integrity is crucial to the job on offer. The foreword to the questionnaire indicates that it is not mandatory to answer the questions, but any response given must be truthful. Candidates are also offered the option of withdrawing from the process. Should a candidate prefer not to complete the questionnaire, the underlying reason can be discussed in the open.
Advantages of this approach
- It is clear beyond doubt that integrity is non-negotiable
- Many candidates of questionable character will withdraw or prefer to provide an explanation
- Integrity risks become visible
- It provides a reason for checking a candidate’s past record.
Many recruiters are reluctant to table integrity. Digital questionnaire completion helps to pose these questions in a neutral and standard manner. In this way, the relationship between recruiter and job seeker is not negatively impacted. Although a standard questionnaire will be available shortly, we recommend completion of a customised questionnaire. The way in which the questionnaire is put together needs to be aligned with the organisation, the position itself and the grade level. This questionnaire can also be used for periodic integrity screening.
2. Moral Standards questionnaire
Moral Standards are regarded as the sixth personality factor, alongside the Big Five. People with a low grade for Moral Standards are more susceptible to integrity violations. This has been proven by scientific research. The Moral Standards questionnaire addresses this sixth factor with the following subcategories:
A low score does not necessarily indicate that someone should be characterised as ‘dishonest’. There is however more likelihood of an integrity risk.
This questionnaire is available as a stand-alone’, but we recommend that it is embedded in the Work-related Personality Questionnaire (WPV). The advantage of this is that the questionnaire provides insight into response trends and consistency.
The “Dilemmas” integrity test indicates the choices people make in the event of a dilemma and the reason behind that choice. Candidates are asked to address 16 dilemmas and answer five subsequent questions related to each dilemma. These are then weighed at four levels:
|Application of the rules||Flexible||versus||Strict|
The way in which people handle dilemmas provides insight into the way they will react to various situations. It depends on the nature of the profession as to which scores are desirable, but in general a lower score will reflect a higher integrity risk than a high score.
Discussion protocols and interview aptitude training
Integrity is a sensitive concept in any job application. You do not want to demotivate suitable candidates and they deserve to be treated with respect. It is therefore to be recommended that well-conceived discussion protocols are developed and that recruiters are trained in these discussion protocols.
Integrity policy and integrity culture
Alongside the recruitment policy it is just as important as an organisation to develop an integrity policy. This policy must clearly identify the corporate norms and values and set out what kind of behaviour is required. The more specific, the better the result. People need to learn how to make the right choices in ambiguous situations. The presentation of dilemmas is a good training method.