Integrity Testing in Employee Selection Process

Integrity tests are seen as a superior alternative to polygraph tests and interviews. In fact, the use of integrity tests in selection decisions has grown dramatically in the past decade. The tests are especially likely to be used where theft, safety, or malfeasance is an important concern. The promise of integrity testing is that it will weed out those most prone to counterproductive work behaviors. Clearly, integrity is an important quality in applicants; integrity tests are designed to tap this important attribute.

Integrity testing can help the management determine which of their prospective hires are likely to engage in unproductive, dangerous, or otherwise risky actions on the job. Candidates are surprisingly candid in answering test questions about their workplace theft or drug abuse, but the tests also have control questions intended to indicate when an applicant is attempting to game the test. Although tests represent an additional expense in the hiring process, it found that the savings in screening out potentially expensive employees more than made up for the costs of conducting the tests.

Integrity Testing’s Role in a Formal Selection Program

When an organization is seeking to formalize its selection program, it has to consider utilizing a standardized selection tool, execute a thorough job analysis and develop job descriptions for each position. This process is needed in order to answer the question of why a selection process should be put into place to help determine if an applicant’s qualifications fit the requirements of the position and the organization. Integrity testing introduces another element of standardization into the formal selection process. Using a standardized testing methodology allows for an equal and fair assessment of all job applicants. This helps reduce the incidence of selection bias and can help reduce the company’s liability for a discrimination claim. Additionally, using a formal selection program can help reduce the costs associated with the selection process, as recruiting high-quality candidates can have a direct impact on retention rates.

Integrity testing can also impact the performance appraisal process, as it helps recruit and retain motivated, reliable employees. For example, the hospitality industry is dependent on the guest experience and positive feedback to remain profitable. Part of that experience is ensuring that the employees do not steal from the guests or the organization. Integrity testing can help deter theft when it is used in conjunction with other loss control programs, such as training programs designed to teach current employees how to exhibit the highest level of integrity while coping with various workplace pressures. For example, peer pressure to steal, and temptations to steal such as unsupervised access to cash and valuable merchandise.

Integrity testing should also be considered when identifying the necessary work-related characteristics, as part of the overall job analysis. Job analysis is defined as the purposeful, systematic process of collecting information on important work-related aspects. Structured interviews follow a systematic approach where employees are interviewed accurately and consistently. It provides the standardization that is currently absent from this process by ensuring that interviewees are asked the same questions in the same order. Those responses are recorded, compared, and evaluated against standard criteria; the interview process remains the same even if the interviewer changes.

This standardization is needed to ensure that the company does not violate any Equal Opportunity or discrimination laws. Also, a review of the Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) would be indicated to ensure compliance. It should also be noted that the use of integrity tests does not violate national employment laws. Since they neither create an adverse impact on protected groups nor violate provisions of the minorities/protected. It should be noted that it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure that all aspects of its selection process, not just integrity testing, comply with federal/state laws. This can be validated and verified by maintaining summary data of external job offers and hires promotions, resignations, terminations, and layoffs by job group, gender, and minority group identification.

It is important to reiterate that when formalizing the selection process and integrating integrity testing that legal defensibility has to be a planning factor. Any, and all, testing needs to be relevant to the position that the individual is being considered for and should not be designed as a selective screening tool. A minimum performance standard or expectation, specifically related to the requirements of the job has to be established. Specifically, the organization needs to ensure that any test or selection procedure is job-related and its results are appropriate for the employer’s purpose. Ensuring that the testing conforms to the Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures can help ensure that the testing is not only appropriate but is legally defensible should an applicant decide to challenge the process.

Integrity testing has seen steady growth in both practice and research throughout the past two decades, with increasing evidence regarding the usefulness of integrity testing for screening out job applicants with risks of future involvement in counterproductive work behavior (CWB). It should be noted, however, that CWB does not merely refer to criminal misconduct. CWB is considered to include a wide range of inappropriate and/or undesirable work behaviors that may target an organization, such as drug use, sabotage, absenteeism, and negligence. CWB also encompasses actions towards other employees or management. Actions that include, on-the-job harassment and all forms of discrimination are identified in the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. It should also be noted that these behaviors are prevalent, with the great majority of U.S. employees reporting having engaged in some form of CWB, roughly one-third admitting to having stolen from their employers. Considering the damages that may be caused by CWB, which have been valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually, organizations clearly have a strong interest to reduce the extent of CWBs. To help mitigate any potential CWBs occurring on the Sleep Tight Inn property, behavioral and situational testing can be a useful adjunct to integrity testing.

Another useful adjunct that should be mentioned is the reference check. Reference checking is an objective evaluation of an applicant’s past job performance based on information collected from key individuals, such as previous supervisors or co-workers, who have known and worked with the applicant. Reference checking is primarily used to:

  • Verify the accuracy of the information given by job applicants through other selection processes, i.e. résumés, occupational questionnaires, interviews
  • Predict the success of job applicants by comparing their experience to the competencies required by the job
  • Uncover background information on applicants that may not have been identified by other selection procedures

Job applicants may attempt to enhance their chances of obtaining a job offer by embellishing their training or work history. While résumés summarize what applicants claim to have accomplished, reference checking is meant to assess how well those claims are backed up by others. Verifying critical employment information can significantly cut down on selection errors. Information provided by former peers, direct reports, and supervisors can also be used to forecast how applicants will perform in the job being filled. Reference data used in this way is based on the behavioral consistency principle that past performance is a good predictor of future performance. As previously stated reference checking is an adjunct form of integrity testing within the overall selection process. Validating that an applicant is honest and forthcoming on their application, is a positive behavioral indicator of how they would perform if hired.

All of the formal selection program elements discussed to this point need to be used in combination to ensure not only the integrity of the applicant but also the process. Extensive research has been done on the ability of various hiring methods and measures to actually predict job performance. A hiring process that relies primarily on interviews, reference checks, and personality tests, is significantly less effective than it could be if more effective measures were incorporated. For example, the strongest personality assessments to use in a hiring context are ones that possess these attributes:

  • Measure stable traits that will not tend to change once the candidate has been on the job for some length of time.
  • Are normative in nature, which allows you to compare one candidate’s scores against
  • Have high reliability (including test-retest reliability) and have been shown to be valid predictors of job performance.

Even when using a tool that meets the criteria outlined above, personality constructs are not the most predictive measure available. Personality tests are most effective when combined with other measures with higher predictive validity, such as integrity or cognitive ability. Using well-validated, highly predictive assessment tools in combination can give management a reliable indication of who will become a top performer for the organization.

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