Honesty Testing Programs

In practice, detecting dishonest candidates involves not just tests, but a comprehensive anti-theft screening procedure:

Ask blunt questions: Ask direct questions in the face to face interview. For example, says one expert, there is nothing wrong with asking the applicant, have you ever stolen anything from an employer? Other questions to ask include, Have you recently held jobs other than those listed on your application? Have you ever been fired or asked to leave a job? What reasons would past supervisors give if they were asked why they let you go? Have past employers ever disciplined you or warned you about absences or lateness? Is any information on your application mis-represented or falsified?

Listen, rather than talk: allow the applicant to do the talking so you can learn as much about the person as possible.

Do a credit check: Include a clause in your application form that gives you the right to conduct background checks, including credit checks and motor vehicle reports.

Check all employment and personal references.

Use paper and pencil honesty tests and psychological tests.

Test for drugs: Devise a drug testing program and give each applicant a copy of the policy.

Establish a search and seizure policy and conduct searchers: Give each applicant a copy of the policy and require each to return to signed copy. The policy should state that all lockers, desks, and similar property remain the property of the company and may be inspected routinely.

The Adolf Coors Company uses a three step honesty screening program:

1) First, it uses an outside lab to conduct a urinalysis test.
2) Next, applicants take a Stanton Corporation paper and pencil survey and attitudes toward honesty and theft. Stanton provides a written report categorizing applicants by levels of risk.
3) Finally, Equifax Services performs applicant references and back ground checks. These involve contacting previous employers and educational institutions.

Honesty testing still requires some auction. Having just taken and failed what is fairly obviously an honesty test the candidate may leave the premises feeling his or her treatment was less than proper. Some honesty questions also pose invasion of privacy issues. And there are state laws to consider. For instance, Massachusetts and Rhode Island limits the use of paper and pencil honesty tests.


Graphology refers to the use of handwriting analysis to determine the writer’s basic personality traits. Graphology thus has some resemblance to projective personality tests, although graphology’s validity is highly suspect.

In graphology, the handwriting analyst studies an applicant’s handwriting and signature to discover the person’s needs, desires and psychological makeup. According to the graphologist, the writing in Figure exemplifies uneven pressure, poor rhythm and uneven baselines. The variation of light and dark lines shows a lack of control and is one strong indicator of the writer’s inner disturbance.

Graphology’s place is screening sometimes seems schizophrenic. Perhaps most importantly, studies suggest it is generally not valid, or that when graphologists do accurately size up candidates, it’s because they are privy to other background information. Yet some firms continue to use graphology – indeed to swear by it. It tends to be bigger in Europe, where countries like France or Germany have one central graphology institute, which serves as the certifying body. Fike Corporation in Blue Springs, Missouri, a 325 employee maker of valves and other industrial products, uses profiles based on handwriting samples to design follow up interviews. Sharon Stockham, senior human resources vice president for Exchange Bank in Santa Rosa, California says her company lives and dies by handwriting analysis using it as one element for screening officer candidates.

Physical Exams:

Once the employer extends the person a job offer, a medical exam is often the next step in the selection process (although it may also take place after the new employee starts work).

There are several reasons for pre-employment medical exams. One is verify that the applicant meets the physical requirements of the position another is to discover any medical limitations you should take into account in placing the applicant. The exam will also establish a record and baseline of the applicant’s health for future insurance or compensation claims. By identifying health problems, the examination can also reduce absenteeism and accidents and of course, detect communicable diseases that may be unknown to the applicant.

In the largest firms, the employer’s medical department performs the exam. Smaller employers retain the services of consulting physicians.