One of our friends almost had a catastrophe with two people she hired. Wendy is responsible for several thousand apartments and is always on the lookout for superintendents. Naturally, she needs honest, trustworthy people she can rely on, especially when she gives them master keys to everyone’s apartment.
Wendy interviewed a nice young couple and took an immediate liking to them. They were personable, keen and seemed to have all of the qualifications she wanted so she hired them on the spot. Luckily, her offer was conditional on the results of further checking. You can imagine her dismay when she found that the man had just been released from jail where he had served time for armed robbery, and his wife was due to appear in court on a charge of shoplifting!
Where do these people come from and how can you avoid them? Unfortunately, there seem to be more and more of them around these days. A recent study of 745,000 businesses bears this out. It found that employee theft and workplace violence are two of today’s biggest HR problems. Dishonest employees each steal an average of $779 and it’s increasing every year. Even if you don’t run into these problems, it is harder and harder to find people with ethics, decent work habits, who are respectful, careful, and who will come to work regularly and on time. As a psychologist, I’m well aware of the research on the weakening of social values, but knowing why it happens doesn’t really do much for the HR professional.
It seems to me that this is precisely why there has been such a rapid growth in the development of valid and reliable tests that will help screen new hires. I’ve been in the business for 30 years and while we didn’t need these tests when I started, we certainly need them now. I’m continually amazed at what people do and the lengths we have to go to, to protect our companies and ourselves. But the good news is that it is possible to test for honesty, proneness to violence, drug use, ethics, and every imaginable skill that you want in a person. Any recruiter who isn’t testing is failing to utilize an essential business tool. But choose wisely, not every test is valid, reliable or legal.