Truth or Consequences: Hiring for Integrity

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It is a well-documented fact that at least 2 out of every 5 applications contain one major fabrication. What the employer doesn't know can, and almost certainly will, have a tremendous impact on that organization!

Dr. Julian Cano, Ed. D, a Clinical Psychologist of 30 years, once said that we are all taught from birth both to lie as well as catch lies. He reasons that most people have the necessary skills and abilities to effectively lie to others and to tell when someone is lying to them in return. Dr. Cano adds that it can also be morally and socially acceptable to lie, but at the same time, unacceptable to indicate to others that they are being untruthful! This is absolutely true and it describes perfectly, a paradox specific to the hiring process.

Obviously, 40% of all job applicants feel it's OK to misrepresent the truth in one way or another. The candidate can easily rationalize to his or herself that they are lying in their own interest and that the deception puts no burden upon the employer; no one gets hurt in the lie. At the same time, the hiring professional thinks that it isn't polite to point out discrepancies in the applicant's description of his or her background, education, and prior employment experiences. In fact some people believe that the process of verifying this information is not socially acceptable because it begins with the presupposition that the candidate may not be telling the truth.

In order to find the best candidate for the continued success of an organization isn't it essential that the employer has accurate and detailed information regarding the ability of the applicant as well as his or her integrity? Absolutely! This is a universal truth:

Honest people build profitable companies, dishonest people tear them down.

That's why pre-employment polygraph exams were so popular! However, with the ban of pre-employment polygraph testing, employers were forced to learn new and more acceptable ways of eliciting the truth from job applicants. The science of “lie catching" and “deception detection" without technological assistance remained a mystery to almost every person charged with having to make a hiring decision. Myths and homespun tales describing the signs that someone was lying almost became a junk science.

The reality of identifying untruthful behavior only recently received academic validation. These techniques are now gaining acceptance and popularity within Corporate America. Specifically, the approach used to obtain the truth from job applicants is called an integrity interview. It is a non-confrontational and effective method used to foster an open and honest dialogue between the employer and prospective employee from the very beginning of the hiring process. The integrity interview has been proven to be both an ethical and practical method to identify and attract the very best employees available.

The integrity interview segment is a non-accusatory interview designed to elicit truthful information from the candidate and to gain an insight in to applicant's possible participation in behavior that might be detrimental to the requirements of the job vacancy. Applicants can then be judged on the basis of facts obtained through the entire prescreening process as well as admissions they may make. Specific information involving the following instances should be discussed with every candidate:

  • Prior employers not included on the candidate's application
  • Prior terminations and forced resignations
  • Past involvement in various criminal activities to include criminal convictions, theft of merchandise and cash from employers, and illegal drug usage
  • Attendance Issues including, excessive absenteeism, chronic Tardiness, abuses of sick leave, theft of time (i. e. a delivery driver at home while “on the clock")

    Many interviewers are skeptical when hearing that applicants will make admissions and will ultimately disqualify themselves during an employment interview and it goes without saying that most applicants don't come to an interview prepared to admit acts of misconduct or illegal activities. However, it is the responsibility of the interviewer to create an environment conducive to honesty and to sell the applicant on the notion that telling the absolute truth is the only way to get the job; then it becomes the interviewers responsibility to ask carefully worded questions followed by a keen observation of the applicant's behavior while answering.

    The integrity interview is certainly not anything new; the nation's top employers have been using these techniques for almost a decade. Small to medium sized businesses, which make up the largest employer segment in the United States, have been very slow to catch on however, primarily because very little training has been afforded them and they often lack the internal structure to consistently provide documented training programs within their organizations.

    Until this is changed, Entrepreneurial America will continue to be a victim of its own complacency.

    L. Scott Harrell is the author of Truth or Consequences: Hiring for Integrity, a manual which completely and accurately describes proven pre-employment hiring strategies and interviewing skills developed from 14 years of experience as a private investigator and principal of CompassPoint Investigations.

    More information regarding Hiring for Integrity and other effective hiring practices can be found via his website:

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