In the following essay, I will closely address the case called “Testing for Honesty” (Shaw and Barry 459). The given case talks about the importance of pre-employment psychological tests that “identify those prospective employees who are likely to steal” (459). In particular, the authors of this case examine diverse aspects of psychological/honesty tests. On the one hand, it is shown how these tests can be helpful in identifying employees who have a tendency to steal/lie. On the other hand, the case portrays how these examinations can violate personal privacy. The authors provide examples of questions included in honesty tests; among them questions about one’s religious and sexual choices/preferences (Shaw and Barry 461). In my opinion, this is too much. Below, I talk about how I would feel if I had to take a psychological/honesty test as an employee or as a precondition for employment. Following this, I will explain under what conditions (if any) I would agree to take such a test.
Before addressing this question I will talk about the necessity of pre-employment testing, as well as its potential effects for prospective employees. Sackett and Harris emphasize that honesty tests which inquire about an applicant’s attitudes to theft and theft in the past can be considered unethical (242). What is more, the authors explain that some companies avoid using honesty tests in order to preserve a positive image of the company (242). This is a totally new viewpoint – the fact that a company’s image may suffer due to unethical questions being addressed to prospective employees. In Faust’s article it is mentioned that really personal questions may stigmatize the applicant (223). What is more, if the applicant feels that she was not hired because of an “incorrect” answer to a personal question, this may be even more stigmatizing.
As for me, I would opt to work for a company which respects my privacy and chooses to trust its employees (if there is no apparent reason to distrust them). As a matter of fact, if a company wishes to check if an applicant has a history of theft, it should first look at the general record of the applicant (police record) and make several phone calls to past employers (in search of positive/negative recommendations).
Next, I would like to note that in the case it is mentioned that honesty and psychological tests are not always 100% accurate. What is more, past behavior is not always the best predictor of an employee’s future choices. To be honest, I would not want to work for an organization that intrudes into employees’ personal space. I value my privacy and even if I were in a desperate situation (in grave need of a job), I would think twice before saying “yes” to such an employer. In fact, I would not agree to such a test/job if I had another option.
While it is relevant to ask applicants theft and honesty questions for some job positions (e.g., employees who deal with finances, inventory, etc.), not all positions require this type of testing. Henceforth, if such a test is absolutely necessary, the employer should respectfully explain this to the applicant. Furthermore, an explication should be given to the applicant about the nature of the test and the applicant’s being free to answer or not answer the questions. An applicant should have the right to avoid answering questions which she considers personal and still be considered for the job position.
Summing up, I have nothing against honesty or psychological testing as long as the questions are not “too intimate” (religion and one’s sexual life/preferences are a taboo for me). In the end, I would be suspicious about an employer who asks prospective employees questions that are too personal. Most probably, I would not answer these questions (leaving them blank) and look for another organization to work at.
- Faust, Quentin Collin. “Integrity Tests: Do They Have Any Integrity.” Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, vol. 6, no. 1, 1996, pp. 211-32.
- Sackett, Paul, and Michael Harris. “Honesty Testing for Personnel Selection: A Review and Critique.” Personnel Psychology, vol. 37, no. 2, 1984, pp. 221-45.
- Shaw, William, and Vincent Barry. Moral Issues in Business. Wadsworth Publishing, 2016.