People who have low scores on the Applicant Review (a pre-employment ‘Honesty Test’ from Certifinder – www.certifinder.com) will not necessarily steal the next time they have a chance; but people with low scores are certainly more likely to steal than people with high scores. A basic principle of employee selection is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Scores on the Applicant Review are significantly related to past behavior – people who have low scores voluntarily admit to higher levels of previous theft and illegal drug use.
While personal honesty is an important predictor of whether someone will lie or steal, our research indicates that it is only one of three important variables that need be considered. The other two variables are the kinds of situational pressures the person is experiencing, and the kind of opportunities available for stealing.
Situational pressures refer to the specific problems a person might face at a particular time, especially a need for money. Although everyone would probably appreciate having more money to spend, some people have intense financial needs to cover short-term emergencies. Occasionally these financial pressures can be overwhelming, such as trying to support a drug habit, covering gambling losses, or maintaining the social image of an extravagant life style. Situational pressures are particularly intense when people have a non-sharable need – they are too embarrassed to share their financial problems with anyone.
Some situation are more conducive to theft than others. The opportunity to commit fraud is more convenient when people have access to financial accounts, when no one audits them, and when they think it is unlikely they will be caught or prosecuted or punished. Fraud is easier when companies have poor internal accounting controls and when they fail to follow them. Occasionally, fraud is so convenient that even honest people are seduced by the opportunity presented to them even though they had no intention of being dishonest.
Whether someone will steal in a particular situation, therefore, depends on more than just the person’s level of honesty. Even honest people can succumb to theft when the opportunities are convenient and they face intense situational pressures. All three variables need to be considered to understand and predict employee theft.
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How Reliable is The Applicant Review?
Evidence of the Applicant Review’s reliability comes from test-retest reliability studies. Groups of people have been tested twice with a one-week interval between administrations and their scores on both tests have been highly correlated. Evidence of the Applicant Review’s validity comes from a variety of studies, such as comparing the average scores of known groups who are expected to differ significantly (such as prisoners versus housewives), and correlating test scores with admissions of theft.
Perhaps the most impressive validity evidence comes from correlating the test scores for people who are asked to complete the test and then write an anonymous essay about how honest they really are. When these essays are coded on a 10-point scale and correlated with the test scores, the correlations are quite impressive. Although people with low scores begin their essays by saying they are basically honest people, they typically admit to a variety of dishonest acts such as stealing from their employer, shoplifting, lying to family members, and falsifying reports. $