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To Catch a Thief


by SIOP Administrative Office

A New Way to Identify Unethical Applicants

Organizations can probably agree they would like to avoid hiring unethical induvial. However, traditional integrity assessments can be easy for potential employees to game.

In a recent study on testing integrity in the hiring process, SIOP Fellow Matthew O’Connell, Executive Vice President and co-founder of consulting firm Select International, and Member Amie Lawrence, Manager of Product Development, used a less transparent type of assessment methodology to measure integrity called “conditional reasoning.”

This methodology is referred to as an implicit measurement because the information presented to candidates looks and feels like a traditional critical thinking test. However, it is designed to gather information about their feelings and beliefs on underlying traits related to counterproductive work behavior.

Specifically, low integrity individuals are very good at justifying unethical behavior to themselves in a way that leaves them feeling good about what they have done. For example, stealing a little from a large and powerful organization may seem reasonable to these people and rational because the company has presumably taken advantage of its employees and/or customers. Therefore, the organization “deserves it” and missing a little money, or a few supplies, will not affect the bottom line.

The implicit conditional reasoning approach looks specifically at these justification mechanisms and does it in a way that doesn’t appear or feel like an integrity test.

“While more research is warranted, these results are encouraging for the use of conditional reasoning as a measure of integrity in applied settings,” O’Connell said. “The conditional reasoning measure seems to be capturing variance that self-report personality does not. The two together provide more accurate prediction of counter-productive behaviors than either alone.”

This study outlines the development of the conditional reasoning assessment and shows some initial evidence that it predicts self-reported counterproductive work behaviors. This study is one of the first to examine the use of an implicit measurement approach in predicting undesirable and potentially unethical work behaviors.

Matthew O’Connell, Ph.D.
5700 Corporate Drive, Suite 250
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
(412) 847-5314

Amie Lawrence

About Smarter Workplace Awareness Month
This research is being brought to you through SIOP's Smarter Workplace Awareness Month efforts. Throughout the month of September, SIOP will be making a special push to promote I-O research and practice.

SIOP members and other I-O psychologists are encouraged to take extra time this month to promote the many ways I-O psychology makes the workplace smarter—more effective, efficient, productive, and generally a better place for employees and employers to work. To learn more, including how you can get involved, please visit the Smarter Workplace Awareness Month homepage.#SmarterWorkplace