Practical guidelines for implementing pre-employment integrity tests - Midot
Publication year:2013
Published in:Public Personnel Management, 42(2), 280-291
Authors:Fine s.

Research has shown that integrity tests effectively predict possibly counterproductive behaviors in the work-place. Yet, their implementation process in organizations remains challenging and they remain underutilized. Therefore, this article offers planned and clear procedural guidelines to support and ensure the successful integration and implementation of integrity tests in the recruitment and hiring process of any organization.

Different selection methods assess job applicants, trying to measure different skills and traits. A central tool designed to assess psychological competencies is the integrity test – without it, the rest of the hiring process may well be utterly pointless. These tests mean to screen-out candidates considered at high risk for counterproductive work behaviors (CWB) or even criminal offenses such as violence and fraud. However, the tests cannot be used effectively if not integrated into the work-place properly.

Two main challenges hinder the implementation process. First, the test predicts negative behaviors, while the hiring process naturally wishes to discern and promote positive performance. Second, the personnel in charge of the hiring process is a human resource specialist, while the issue of personnel risk is a job for a security specialist. The conflict is between the purpose of hiring-in versus the aim of the test to screen-out. In order to overcome these challenges and perfect the implementation of the integrity test and its results in the work-place, some guidelines should be followed.

1. An initial audit of existing behaviors within the organization and its employees should be held. This may include statistical analysis of past incidents recorded, performance appraisal records, cross-referencing offices or branches, and more in order to be able to set realistic objectives and induce the motivation (financial or otherwise) to change the recruitment process.

2. According to the initial assessment, realistic objectives should be set by the decision-makers. Different screening tools, including integrity tests, should be considered and a clear plan should be set.

3. There is no single, ultimate integrity test and so the right test should be chosen if it is decided to use one. It should then be adapted to the objectives and expectations previously set as well as the logistic constraints specific to the organization.

4. Where and when along the recruitment process the test is to be positioned for utmost efficacy is a central decision to be made. Different positions have their advantages and drawbacks.

5. Some measures should be established, based on the previously set objectives and expectations, in order to get and report results in terms of financial savings to the organization and other tangible outcomes, or definable success factors.

6. Ideally, the organization should carry out a controlled pilot study of the test within a clear time frame and a procedural evaluation.

7. If the pilot was successful and the lessons from the process thus far have been documented and implemented, it would be time to officially declare the use of the integrity test and use it operationally. All relevant personnel should be notified, in writing, and trained accordingly.

8. Low scorers are not dishonest people – this should be made clear to the decision-makers, the personnel in charge of hiring, and the candidates themselves. Providing feedback to candidates is important and sensitive, but should not be offensive.

9. Monitoring and follow up are crucial for the success of the test and ultimately the betterment of the organization. This final stage should focus on the perceived and actual effectiveness of the test and its fairness (demographically, for instance). Personnel feedback is key as well as cooperation with the test suppliers.

Adopting all, or even some of the steps outlined would go a long way towards minimizing ‘false positives’ and creating a more effective and measurable assessment and recruitment process which will result in saving the organization and its employees time and money.

Article abstract

Integrity tests have been well researched in recent decades and have consistently been found to be effective predictors of counterproductive behaviors in a variety of occupational settings. In practice, however, the unique nature of integrity tests and their constructs have made their integration into organizations’ recruitment processes somewhat challenging. In light of this situation, the present article outlines a number of practical guidelines that organizations can follow to help ensure successful integrity testing procedures. These guidelines are based on best practice standards for preemployment testing and describe the fundamental need for carefully planned and well-communicated implementation stages, which may include an initial audit of the organization’s counterproductive behaviors, setting realistic and measurable objectives for the test’s use, choosing the appropriate test, correctly positioning the test within the recruitment process, training the organization’s staff and piloting the test, making accurate hiring decisions and providing appropriate candidate feedback, and finally monitoring the test’s performance and employees’ behaviors over time.