Practical Guidelines for Implementing Preemployment Integrity Tests
Fine, Saul, Public Personnel Management
In public- and private-sector organizations around the world, job applicants are screened and assessed by a number of different selection methods before they are hired. These methods nearly always include some form of resume review and one or more personal interviews, and may also be supplemented with the use of
psychological assessment tools. While these psychological assessments can vary in terms of the competencies they measure, ranging from mental abilities and skills to personality traits, when organizations are particularly interested in the honesty of their new employees, they will often choose to administer integrity tests as well (Miner & Capps, 1996).
Integrity tests are designed to screen-out high-risk candidates as a means to mitigate subsequent incidences of counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) and occupational offenses, such as theft, fraud, bribery, violence, and drug use (Murphy, 1993). To do so, integrity tests may include items with direct questions to job applicants regarding their attitudes toward CWBs in general and occupational offenses in particular (Sackett, Burris, & Callahan, 1989). Accordingly, individuals who tend to identify with counterproductive behaviors, believe that such behaviors are pervasive or justifiable, are lenient toward their perpetrators, and/or have been involved in such behaviors themselves are predicted to have greater propensities toward engaging in such behaviors themselves in the future (Wanek, 1999). A prototypical item from an integrity test, for example, might be the statement "most employees will steal from their employers at least once," whereby, a candidate's agreement or disagreement to this statement is essentially indicative of his or her perceived pervasiveness of employee thefts.
Indeed, a vast amount of research and meta-analytic evidence over the past few decades has shown integrity tests to be significant predictors of CWB in a variety of settings (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Schmidt, 1993) and able to successfully reduce CWBs when utilized in the selection process (Jones, 1991). However, for any tool to be operationally effective, it needs to be properly implemented into the organization's overall recruitment and selection process. Proper implementation may include issues such as clarifying the test's objectives, the influence the test has on the hiring decision, training the test's administrators, monitoring the test's performance, and so on. Consequently, the unsuccessful implementation of one or more of these areas can render even well-developed and validated assessments more or less ineffective.
With respect to integrity testing, implementations can be especially challenging for at least two main reasons. First, there is often confusion as to how to integrate integrity tests, which predict negative behaviors, into the overall selection and assessment process, which is normally designed to predict positive performance. Second, adding to this confusion, is an uncertainty regarding the proper interaction between human resource specialists, who are typically in charge of the recruitment and assessment process (i.e., selecting-in promising job candidates), and security personnel, who are more often in charge of assessing personnel risk (i.e., screening-out high-risk candidates).
In light of these challenges, this article describes a number of practical guidelines to help personnel specialists ensure a successful implementation of integrity tests in their organizations. These guidelines are based on best practice standards for preemployment testing in general (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council of Measurement in Education, 1999), and related writings in particular (Association of Test Publishers, 2010; Werner & Joy, 1991), and are endorsed by the experience of developing and providing integrity tests for public- and private-sector organizations around the world. …