Integrity: 5 Questions to ask in Interviews

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During the past week, South Africans learned of the university student receiving government funding to complete her studies, who blew close on a million ZAR after 14 million was erroneously deposited into her account by the finance provider. Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me!) people disagree about whether this student should be held accountable for her actions in not reporting the error and then spending a record amount of money in less than 3 months.

This story got me thinking about integrity and the importance of trust, honesty, virtue and ethics – especially in the employment relationship - since I have often advised companies against hiring a candidate because they did not fare well on the integrity questions in interviews and I’ve often recommended dismissal for conduct relating to dishonesty after disciplinary hearings.

Don’t be caught unawares by a shady employee who thinks nothing of over-claiming on their expenses or fails to disclose crucial deadlines have been missed or who takes credit for the work of others. By applying the principles of Competency or Behavioural based interview techniques, it is possible to establish a candidate’s past behaviour in a scenario and gain insights into their general integrity.

Make an informed decision about the candidate’s moral compass and the likelihood that they may conduct themselves in a questionable manner by asking these 5 questions:


  1. Can you give us an example of a time when you felt under pressure to change your values or principles about something? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  2. Sometimes, when dealing with difficult customers, it becomes necessary to stretch the truth a little to resolve the situation. Can you give us an example of a time when you have been in a situation where you stretched the truth and what happened?
  3. Have you ever had knowledge of something that a colleague of yours did wrong? Something against company policies or perhaps something dangerous or dishonest? What did you do and how did the situation turn out?
  4. Can you give us an example of a business situation where you felt that honesty was inappropriate? What was the situation and how did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  5. At work we are sometimes required to conform with policies which we may not agree with 100%. Can you give us an example of a time when this has happened to you? What was the policy and what did you do in the situation? How did this turn out for you?

This method of interviewing requires candidates to give you actual examples, as opposed to telling you what they believe you most likely want to hear about how they ‘would act’ in some fictional scenario. Past behaviour is often the best predictor of likely future behaviour and it is just one of the many tools you can use to ensure that you hire the right people, who will do the right thing – even when no one is watching. 



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