the risk management blog

Integrity Interviewing

byRobert Osborne | July 29, 2014

There have been concerns and debates over the accuracy and validity of polygraph results, written honesty tests, psychological testing, etc. over the years and it will undoubtedly continue. One issue surrounding the controversy is the fact that individual results often times cannot be substantiated without corroborating admissions by the applicant. Further, a number of applicants have been denied employment due to having scored unfavorably on such testing, which has caused opponents to voice their concerns resulting in various acts of legislation.

An integrity interview is a one-on-one pre-employment interview in which an applicant is asked a predetermined number of questions in an effort to gather information to render an objective assessment of individual standards of trustworthiness and integrity.

This method of pre-screening, which takes an average of 45-60 minutes, is an extremely valuable and objective means of assessing individual standards of honesty and integrity.

At the beginning of an integrity interview, the interviewer gives the applicant several pages to read, which provides an overview of what (s)he can expect during the interview. Next, the applicant is asked to explain what they read and tell a little about themselves.  It is during this period that the interviewer establishes a baseline for how the applicant responds verbally and non-verbally, when presumably (s)he is being truthful. This pre-questioning phase is critical because it is during this time that the interviewer establishes a rapport with the applicant and creates an atmosphere that encourages truthfulness. Once the questioning begins, the interviewer attempts to determine whether or not there is consistency between the applicant’s verbal and non-verbal responses to questions or whether there are concerns, based on the responses.

Of all the various pre-employment screening tools available to employers, Lowers Risk Group has found integrity interviewing to be one of the most revealing. This interviewing process has proven to be highly effective in obtaining admissions regarding illegal drug use/distribution, falsification of the employment application, criminal acts/convictions, theft, terminations from employment, and much more.

Although no pre-screening process can completely eliminate the possibility of hiring an individual with unacceptable standards of integrity, integrity interviewing unquestionably provides the most comprehensive information about an individual’s past actions.

We have often been asked, “How do you get people to admit things that will obviously disqualify them from employment?” and “Do people really admit to such things as using illegal drugs, stealing from their jobs, and having been convicted of criminal acts?”

Applicants do, in fact, make these types of admissions and many others. The admissions noted below are approximate percentages from 3,000 plus integrity interviews:

  • 75% of applicants admitted to falsifying their employment applications to some extent regarding such areas as criminal convictions, extent of education, past job history, terminations/forced resignations, job responsibilities, titles, salaries, reasons for resigning, etc.
  • 21% admitted to having convictions for various criminal offenses.
  • 28% admitted to having been fired or forced to resign from previous jobs.
  • 29% admitted to illegal drug use within the past 5 years.
  • 18% admitted to theft from employers within the past 5 years (excluding small office supplies); approximately 75% of building/facility maintenance applicants admitted stealing various types of maintenance supplies during this time frame.
  • 32% admitted to having committed other crimes as adults including burglary, armed robbery, rape, and attempted murder.  Further, one applicant admitted to an undetected homicide.
  • 41% admitted to abuse of sick leave.

Most people find it amazing that applicants will make such admissions and wonder how this is accomplished. Obviously, the mere asking of questions does not result in significant admissions of wrongdoing; sound interviewing principles and techniques must be applied.

It is important to realize that the vast majority of applicants do not come in initially for an interview prepared to admit having committed serious acts of wrongdoing. It is natural for them to refrain from disclosing past acts of misconduct without incentives, and in the majority of situations, the interviewer must sell them on the importance of being truthful and create incentives that encourage them to be truthful.

When an applicant is suspected of withholding information (based upon conflicts in verbal/non-verbal responses), the interviewer must utilize and employ proven interviewing techniques to create additional incentives that encourage truthfulness, without being accusatory.

Those who truly excel at getting others to admit acts of wrongdoing are probably born with this unique talent.  Like selling, you can teach the fundamentals, but you cannot teach some inherent qualities associated with integrity interviewing, such as personality and self-confidence.

Although the skill levels of interviewers vary, the majority of us will become more proficient through training, exposure to proven techniques, and experience.

In light of ADA, EEOC regulations, labor laws, etc., legal advice should be sought prior to implementing a list of questions. When formulating questions, a number of factors should be considered such as relevance of the questions to the position applied for, and time frame of the inquiry.

By utilizing Lowers Risk Group’s approach to integrity interviewing, the employment decision is based solely upon the extent of an applicant’s admissions, not on whether or not the interviewer believes the applicant. This ensures complete objectivity and eliminates some of the concerns associated with interpreting traditional pre-employment screening results.

BENEFITS OF AN INTEGRITY INTERVIEWING PROGRAM

  • Reduction of potential negligent hiring actions.
  • Decrease in overall internal theft.
  • Increase in work place morale (employees feel more comfortable knowing their coworkers have been screened and not just hired off the street).
  • Lower employee turnover.
  • Provides the most objective overview of an applicant’s past.
  • Most effective process for screening out undesirable applicants.

 

Integrity Interviewing Training Seminars offered by Lowers Risk Group

These seminars were developed to teach the essentials of integrity interviewing, which include proven principles/techniques that Lowers Risk Group has found to be the most effective in gaining admissions from applicants. We provide a proven methodology for success in conducting such interviews, sharing essentials, teaching what we have learned from personal experiences, and through thousands of interviews, not from the perspective or claims of others.