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How to Gauge a Person's Integrity During an Interview

by Ellie Williams

When seeking the ideal candidate for a position, skills, experience and other qualifications are only half the equation. Equally important is his integrity, which determines everything from his work ethic to his company loyalty. You can’t see integrity on a resume the way you can education or skills, but you can ask interview questions designed to probe his ethics, honesty and personality.

Behavioral Interviewing

You can often assess an applicant’s integrity by scrutinizing his past job performance. Behavioral interview questions require candidates to provide specific examples from previous jobs that demonstrate how they’ve handled ethical dilemmas. For example, you might ask an applicant to describe a time when he went against popular opinion because he felt it was the right thing to do. Or, you might ask about a time when he witnessed a colleague or supervisor behaving inappropriately or violating company policy and what he did in response.

Follow-up Questions

Sometimes, an applicant rehearses the perfect response to an anticipated interview question, delivering it convincingly enough to persuade even the most seasoned interviewer. If you press the applicant for details and he can’t provide them or his story changes, that might indicate he fibbed or left out crucial information during his initial answer. For example, a candidate might say he left his last position in search of greater challenges. However, if you ask him to describe his relationship with his former colleagues or ask if you can contact his previous supervisor for a reference, you might force him to reveal he was fired from his last job for repeated disputes with coworkers.

Integrity Interviewing

In addition to the standard job interview, where you evaluate an applicant’s professional experience, communication skills and other work-related factors, conduct a separate integrity interview. During this meeting, you’ll focus only on questions that assess the person’s honesty and candor. Unlike the traditional interview, which indirectly addresses these subjects, an integrity interview is upfront and the applicant knows the interviewer plans to evaluate his ethics. This type of interview, offered by some human resources consulting firms, focuses on the candidate’s background rather than skills. The interviewer considers not only the person’s words but also body language, eye contact and other nonverbal cues.

Personality Assessment

Many interviewing techniques rely on an indirect method of gauging a person’s integrity, honesty and ethics, but sometimes the direct route works just as well. For example, ask the candidate to describe his work ethic or discuss how he handles it when a supervisor shoots down one of his ideas or a colleague disagrees with him. Even if he tries to portray himself in a positive light, he might inadvertently reveal true tendencies that aren't so positive. For example, if he focuses only on his own interests and not the other person’s when discussing workplace disputes, this might indicate that he puts his needs above those of his colleagues and the company.

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