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6 best Interview Questions to ask to test for Integrity

Testing for integrity is always a good place to start. Recruiting is about more than just finding a skill set that you need. Organisational fit is equally, or perhaps even more important. And the first thing we want to know is whether our potential hire can be trusted to do the right thing, even when no-one is looking.

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner
Young woman being interviewed

The author, C.S. Lewis (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame) famously said “integrity is doing the right thing even when no-one is watching” but how can we test someone’s integrity if we’re not there to watch?

Taking people at face value is what we’ve been taught to do if we want to establish rapport at the start of a relationship, whether it be a personal or professional one. Approaching an introduction with suspicion and distrust isn’t a good way to start – unless you don’t want any new friends of course!

But there’s a problem with face value being your only means of evaluation. As a human, you’re likely to apply all sorts of psychological schemas (the root of unconscious bias) to your decision making and as a human, you’re likely to do that within 35 seconds of meeting someone for the first time.

Truly understanding a person only comes through much deeper conversation and discovery. Talking about moral dilemmas and finding out what they would do. That’s how knowing the right questions to ask in a job interview can help you make sure you are choosing the right person for your team.

Using the interview to explore the trust level

One of the most important things we want to know early on in the process is whether they can be trusted:

  • Will they align with your corporate values?
  • Will they collaborate with fellow team members or take the credit from them or throw them under the bus to save themselves?
  • Can they be trusted with company information, credit cards, etc?

Here are some great interview questions that can help you decide if someone passes the integrity test or not. And some tips on what you do and don’t want to hear!

1. What are some occasions when telling the truth is not really necessary?

First of all, we all decide not to tell the truth sometime. It’s human. It’s the situations in which we don’t tell the truth that speaks to integrity.

What you don’t want to hear is if it means I don’t have to pay for something or do something I don’t want to do. Ideally, you want to hear something like when you’re not telling the whole truth in order to protect someone’s feelings.

For example, if someone asks you if you like their dress, and you don’t. That demonstrates your candidate has a level of emotional maturity and can tell the difference between deliberate untruthfulness for personal gain and obfuscation to protect someone else’s integrity or feelings.

2. We all tell lies now and then – it’s human. What sorts of lies have you told in the past?

Ideally what you want to hear are “lies” that are designed to protect someone’s feelings, privacy or integrity.

If your candidate shares a lie they have told to position themselves better in someone else’s eyes or get some material gain from the situation, then you may need to question their integrity.

3. Do you think it’s OK to keep the change when you’ve been given too much?

The answer you want here is “No”. A basic test of integrity is when someone owns up to getting something they are not entitled to when the other person doesn’t even realise they’ve made the mistake.

4. A colleague has been accused of making a serious error that could mean she will lose her job. The error was yours. What would you do?

Most candidates are smart enough to say they would probably own up. After all, that’s what we’ve been taught is the right thing to do.

So you may want to probe a little deeper here with something like “what if owning up to the error means you may lose your job?” and watch for the reaction of discomfort and/or the reasons why it wasn’t really their fault. Someone’s integrity can be changeable if they stand to be the loser!

5. When is it OK to charge something personal to a company credit card? For example, adding a packet of chips or a can of coke to the bill when you’ve filled the company car up with petrol?

It is never OK to use a company card as a personal one unless of course it’s your own company and you are responsible for the card payments. The only acceptable answer here would be if I was really stuck and the only way I could pay for something urgently was with the company card. But I would tell my Manager and offer to repay it immediately.

6. Imagine you are a car salesperson. Your earnings are 100% commission based. That is, the more cars you sell, the more money you make. A customer is showing strong interest in a car that you know has a serious mechanical fault. How would you handle that situation?

A person with genuine integrity wouldn’t hesitate to disclose the mechanical problem. A smart salesperson would also have a solution at the ready!

Selling someone a car that could potentially cost them thousands of dollars in repairs or worse, put their life at risk, is not something a person with integrity would do.

The right person is yours to hire if you know how to “see” them

When we’re armed with the most effective interview questions to ask, we can be more confident in our hiring decisions. In the same way that we evaluate a candidate’s skills and confirm their experience through asking specific questions, so too can we evaluate aspects of their personality to see how well they will fit with our team.

Testing for integrity is a good place to start – after all, it’s the foundation of all successful relationships.

Job Fit Assessment – test for the things that really matter.

At Just Right People Recruitment we can help you with job fit and skills assessment – the only job matching assessment tool built specifically for the recruitment industry. It enables you to accurately assess behavioural traits and reasoning skills to connect the right people with the right jobs.

Learn more…

Bernadette Eichner
Bernadette Eichner

Bernadette Eichner, Cofounder and CEO of Just Right People, is a recruitment industry entrepreneur and thought leader in Australia, totally committed to improving the recruiter experience for clients and candidates alike. Her secret to life is to “just do the next thing that needs to be done”.

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