Empirical Investigation of Job Applicants' Reactions to Taking a Preemployment Honesty Test
JOHN W. JONES AND DENNIS S. JOY
Employee theft is widespread and difficult to detect, and its existence is widely accepted by security researchers and professionals. Hollinger and Clark ( 1983) found that the average percentage of employees who admitted to theft in the workplace was 41.8 percent for retail sector employees, 32.2 for hospital employees, and 26.2 for those employed in manufacturing. Slora ( 1988) conducted an anonymous survey among fast food employees and found that 62 percent admitted to some type of property or cash theft, and 78 percent admitted to time theft (e.g., faking illness and calling in sick, leaving work early without permission). These studies are a first step toward accurately quantifying the total frequency and cost of employee theft.
Many companies have attempted to control the employee theft problem through preemployment screening. The use of paper-and-pencil honesty tests in this process has become increasingly common ( Ash, 1988; Sackett & Harris, 1984). Standardized honesty tests that have been constructed to meet legal and professional guidelines tend to exhibit high reliability and useful levels of validity. McDaniel and Jones ( 1988) summarized 23 studies in a meta-analysis and found that the average validity coefficient of a leading honesty test equals .50. Yet despite acceptable levels of test validity and statistically documented reductions in shrinkage and theft losses (e.g., Terris & Jones, 1982; Brown, Jones, Terris & Steffy, 1987), some companies are hesitant to implement preemployment honesty tests, for a number of reasons. One is that they think job applicants will view such tests as offensive--the subject of this chapter.