You’re lying through your teeth, you’re not at all, not at all what you seem.
If these lyrics from the popular song and fashionable ringtone are any guide, most of us would lie through our teeth to get out of a tight spot, avoid a tight spot or put someone else in a tight spot. As George Carlin, the American comedian reflects, ‘Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that by elimination, dishonesty is the second best policy’.
It is well known that job applicants lie in their resumes and at interviews to gain an advantage. In addition, there is growing evidence that students cheat and plagiarize. In a recent study the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University found 56 percent of MBA students acknowledged cheating, compared with 54 percent in engineering, 48 percent in education and 45 percent in law school. These are our future leaders!
Given the present wave of corporate scandals and failures, it is not surprising that organisations are being expected to create strong ethical cultures and select employees who will fit into those cultures. This explains. to some extent, the growing emphasis on integrity testing in the business world, and test vendors are only too happy to accommodate the growing need.
In addition, a sizeable body of new literature on integrity tests has accumulated since the last review of this literature by Sackett and Wanek (1996). Understanding of the constructs underlying integrity tests continues to grow, aided by new work at the item level. Validation work against a growing variety of criteria continues to be carried out. Work on documenting fakability and coachability continues, as do efforts to increase resistance to faking. New test types continue to be developed. Examination of subgroup differences continues, both at the test and facet level. Research addressing applicant reactions and cross-cultural issues is also reviewed.
In general, integrity and honesty tests can be overt (e.g., theft attitudes and admissions of wrongdoing) or covert (typically personality based assessments attempting to get at underlying traits and qualities that might predict dishonesty, counter-productive work behaviour, etc.).
Key points from this review
- Current research suggests that integrity tests do a good job of predicting fraud, theft, stealing, absenteeism and even academic cheating.
- Some recent research has found that peer reported integrity correlates with interview ratings of integrity.
- Coaching someone to fake one of these assessments is no more effective than asking a respondent to fake.
- Questions that are invasive in nature, i.e., items rated as more private and invasive are less fakable.
- Integrity tests engender more negative reactions than other type of assessments (e.g., personality, interviews).
- Most interview processes don’t add much to predicting future leadership success or honesty.
- Most general personality inventories don’t explain much variance in predicting honesty.
So, the bottom line is be a cynic, assume your job applicants, yes even potential CEOs, will lie through their teeth and kill their own grandmother to get your job. Do your homework, combine overt measures with covert measures, do not rely on interviews, double check references, consider peer ratings of integrity and get to know candidates outside the formal application process.
Berry, C., Sackett, P. & Wieman, S. (2007). A review of recent developments in integrity test research. Personnel Psychology, 60, 271-301.
Sackett, P. & Wanek, J.E (1996). New developments in the use of measures of honesty, integrity, conscientiousness, dependability, trustworthiness, and reliability for personnel selection. Personnel Psychology, 47, 787-829.