Why Integrity Assessments Are NOT Idiotic

by | Dec 10, 2013 | Assessments, Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or info@integrityhr.com


We recently received an HR e-newsletter (one of many we subscribe to) that jumped out at us. The subject: ‘Integrity tests’ for applicants? Really?

Being a proponent of integrity tests (or Honesty-Integrity Assessments as we call them), we were stuck by the frankness of this article as well as the lack of facts on the subject.

The author calls the assessments “idiotic,” proclaiming that drug users or thieves would not answer these questions honestly.

While the author concludes his post by saying “there’s no test for integrity,” we’d like to take a stand on the other side.

There is a test for integrity and it is called an Honesty-Integrity Assessment.

Before we show just how useful there assessments are, let’s take a second to explain exactly what these assessments are for those not in the HR world.

An Honesty-Integrity Assessment is a brief pre-hire assessment that measures an individual’s basic work-related values. It is used primarily as a screening tool early in the candidate selection process.

While HR professionals can gather information from former employers, co-workers, online sources and screening services as well as interviews, this assessment provides valid, objective insight into an applicant’s work ethic, reliability, integrity, propensity for substance abuse, and attitudes toward theft—including property, data and time.

Also, an Honesty-Integrity Assessment allows you to compare your candidate with the whole American working population on critical issues.

Why would you need to do this?

You want to hire people you trust. It’s that simple.

It’s a startling fact – employee theft and fraud averages $9.00 a day per employee! That’s about $2,000 per employee subtracted from your bottom line every year (according to Profiles International). While all employees have opportunities to steal, an employer’s risk increases as people advance to upper levels of responsibility. High-ranking executives have been known to embezzle tens of thousands – even millions of dollars.

Here are some more numbers that might shock you:

  • More than half of candidates, 55% lied about length of past employment.
  • Past salaries, 52%
  • Criminal records, 45%
  • Former job titles, 44%
  • Former employers, 34%
  • Driving records, 33%
  • Degrees, 28%
  • Credit, 24%
  • Schools attended, 22%.
  • Some 15% percent falsify their social security numbers!

Wow. Okay, but you still have the interview, right? Unfortunately, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 63% of all hiring decisions are made in less than five minutes of the interview process.

How good can your information be? Especially when an interviewer has less than a 15% chance of discovering a lie on a resume or application (according to HR Magazine).

The Honesty-Integrity Assessment helps you screen your applicant pool for high-risk candidates before you spend too much time on them later in the hiring process.

The assessment screens for:

  • Integrity
  • Reliability
  • Work Ethic
  • Substance Abuse
  • Faking

How The Assessment Works:

Let’s say for instance your candidate gets a score of 3 or less in the Integrity category. This means they fall in the least desirable 16% of the American working population. Do you really want to hire this person?

By eliminating, anyone who scores less that 4 on the scales, you won’t interview the bottom 1/3 of your candidates! What a relief!

The results also give you sample interview questions that allow you investigate pairs of answers that just don’t add up.

For instance, if Sally puts that she got fired from her last job, but then later answers that she has never been fired, this may be a red flag for you to bring up in your interview.

The results will also help you ask critical questions, for example: Sally states that the things she has taken (stolen) from an employer were not enough to hurt their business.

You would be provided with this sample interview question: How would you define “important” materials and property as it pertains to your statement that the things you have taken from employers were not particularly significant? What sort of things were these?

But you might be asking – who would actually admit to stealing or drug use on an assessment??

You’d be surprised. It all comes down to deviant behavior. Our friend John Howard with Performance Resources, Inc. explains that those who participate in deviant behavior have the mindset that what they do is not wrong and that everyone else has the same mindset as they do. For example, they wouldn’t think twice about admitting to smoking marijuana before work because they believe this is an acceptable behavior.

Still not convinced of the power of Honesty-Integrity Assessments?

Performance Resources has a long list of case studies showing just how Honesty-Integrity Assessments lead to these great results:

  • Your turnover will go down.
  • You won’t waste training on people who won’t be around, anyway.
  • Your attendance problems will go down. Your worries about employee behavior will diminish.
  • You will put more money on the bottom line!

If you would like to read all of them, we encourage you to click here:

We’ll summarize a couple for you really quick.

In a Credit Union, the 90-day failure rates of those who did not meet the Honesty-Integrity assessment criteria were 7 times higher than those who did meet the criteria.

Here is another example for those visual folks (the Step One Survey is the name of the Honesty-Integrity Assessment used):

 Comparison of Hiring Success Rates with SOS

One final question you might be wondering – are these assessments legal?

Yes. The EEOC recently wrote an informal discuss letter in response to a question about integrity assessments. (See the letter here.)

The letter gave three examples of questions. The applicants were asked to “describe their current use of methamphetamine, their current use of illegal, nonprescription drugs at work, and whether they would take things from their employer without permission to get even if they felt that the employer (either the company or their boss) was treating them unfairly.”

Here’s what the EEOC said:

“Because these inquiries, and apparently other questions in the tests, do not ask applicants to disclose their arrest or conviction history, they do not directly implicate Title VII liability concerning the use of such criminal history information in employment decisions as discussed in the Commission’s Enforcement Guidance. Additionally, Title VII does not prohibit employers from asking applicants about their current use of illegal drugs, illegal use of nonprescription drugs at work, or “hypothetical questions about what they would do in situations that may involve criminal/illegal activity. . . .”

The EEOC went on to say, “an employer may still violate Title VII if there is evidence to demonstrate that it designed, intended, or used the tests to discriminate based on a protected characteristic, or if there is evidence to demonstrate that it adjusted, or otherwise altered the scoring for the tests based on a protected characteristic.”

To sum it up, as long as the employer is not using the assessment to discriminate against a certain protected class, then Honesty-Integrity Assessment do not violate Title VII.

So here’s on stance on integrity tests – Honesty-Integrity Assessments are not perfect. But you’ll always do better with them, than without them!

If you’re looking for employees who:

  • Show up when they’re supposed to
  • Work hard when they’re there
  • Don’t engage in risky behaviors
  • Get along with co-workers
  • Stay with you longer

…then maybe you should look into using those not-so-idiotic Honesty-Integrity Assessments. 

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