Tips on employment "integrity" test?
March 19, 2014 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I have been offered a job that is contingent on passing an "integrity test." Has anyone ever taken one of these and if so can you help me pass it?

I listened to all of your wonderful advice and stayed at my current job while looking for a new one. I've been offered a job that matches my experience and career goals well, and am very excited about it!

The offer is contingent on two things--a reference from my current employer (they've promised to give me a great one) and passing an "integrity test" that I have to go to a testing company to take. I've read a bit about these online, and I've read this previous question which dealt with someone who had failed one. I consider myself to be a person of integrity, of course, but am truly at a loss as to what type of questions might be asked and what the "correct" answers are.

I was told it would take about an hour and a half and that the results would be given to my potential new employer the next day.

So, has anyone taken one of these? What can I expect to be asked and what exactly is this test trying to determine?
posted by syrenka to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If this is what I think it is, they're pretty common among retail positions and are testing to make sure that you will toe the corporate line 100% of the time. Think: "If I were a blithering idiot with no capability of forming abstract thought on my own, and the only thing I had in my possession were a copy of the company handbook, how would I answer this question?"

See the first part of this recent comment from griphus.

Maybe this is something different and more involved (you have to go to an outside testing company??), but if it's the sort of thing I'm thinking of, you can take a "sample" one by starting an online application for Starbucks or The Gap. I know for certain that both of them use those tests. (Start an application so you can see the types of questions...don't submit it, obviously, unless you are interested in working at Starbucks or The Gap.)
posted by phunniemee at 10:19 AM on March 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

You may see things on it like "Everyone takes office supplies from work" Even if you believe that to be true, that's false. You don't. So that means not everyone does.

Be honest, in every true sense of the word, and you should be fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:21 AM on March 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just take the test from the mindset of a person who would literally faint at the idea of making a personal phone call at work, and scale all answers accordingly.

Like "I would bring a pen from home to write a postcard during my lunch break--True or False?" Clearly true! I would throw an elderly colleague down the stairs if I saw them take a signle paperclip to hold their glasses together!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2014 [32 favorites]

Actually, contra-Ruthless Bunny, one way of thinking about it is to distinguish the "right" answer from the "honest" answer.

Preface each question with the phrase, "What would a non-human android programmed to behave with the highest levels of integrity do?" and then give them that answer.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:32 AM on March 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

I look one of these years ago for a part-time retail position and failed, I think in part because many of the questions could be answered in degrees (Totally Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, etc) and I answered in the middle of many of the degrees, lowering my score. Just keep in mind what you would do, as an employee, that would be best for the company, and answer in the highest degree (even if in actuality it is something that you might be slightly on the fence about).
posted by Shadow Boxer at 10:34 AM on March 19, 2014

In addition to office supplies, time can be stolen too. So anything personal that you do while on the clock is stealing time from the company, and you never, never, do that. Never.
posted by kimberussell at 10:36 AM on March 19, 2014

While most of these tests are pedestrian "Would you ever steal or lie?!!?" things, I just want to throw out there that I did take one for Grainger, which I failed. It had some not related to work questions on it like "People who golf do it because:" A: It's a good business activity B: they like to show off to their neighbors C: It is fun for the whole family.

Also: "People who keep fish as pets:" A: Don't have time for a dog. B: think its fun for the whole family C: Are lonely

There were 2 sections withthe same types of questions where in one section you picked one answer and in the other you ranked them most to least likely.

I picked the positive answers / ranked them highest thinking it would make me look like a bubbly sales chick and I failed so hell knows what combo they are looking for.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:39 AM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I will add to what's been said that sometimes you will be asked the same question twice. The first is what you think. The second is what you think the company wants you to answer. You want these to line up on every answer even if it seems robotic and questionable.
posted by michaelh at 10:45 AM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Planet Money from NPR did a podcast about employment tests a few months ago, and they talk at length about how these types of tests are being used to predict success/happiness (or whatever the company is looking for) in a job.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 10:47 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

They tell you "just be honest" but THEY LIE!!

I once failed one of these at Safeway for answering incorrectly.

The questions was: You're at a beach and about to leave in about 5 minutes. Some people beside you ask if you'll look after their things while they swim for 15 minutes. Do you
A) say no, sorry, I'm leaving soon?
B) watch them for 5 minutes, then leave?
C) stay and watch them until they get back?

Well I answered good ol' A. Then the interviewer corrected the exam in front of me. Let's talk about your answer to question #16. Why did you answer A? And then looked literally down her nose at me, very pointed and judgy-judgy. I said well I don't want to disappoint them by promising something I can't deliver.


So yeah I hate these things. I think in this case they were assessing my 'helpfulness' or something like that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:08 AM on March 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Be aware that if you seem too robotic, by answering everything as the company would like, it can be bad as well - a real human is unlikely to score perfectly.
posted by Aranquis at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2014

whatever you do, don't give the testing company your social security number like the previous questioner did.

to whom is the duty of integrity owed? i believe that one's own self is the primary legitimate claimant to the benefits flowing from performance of this duty, i.e., the person looking back at you in the mirror, and consequently i would refuse to take such a test unless i was being paid (handsomely) for my time, and i have enough integrity to tell the interviewer that such a test is no better than palmistry or phrenology in identifying integrity.

if you take the test anyway, "i don't know" is a perfectly good answer to some questions, e.g., why people keep fish as pets. it would be a lapse of integrity to guess at the motivation of fish-owning strangers.
posted by bruce at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

My test with the wired questions was internet based and had no room for open ended answers, nor could you submit the test with any questions unanswered, elsewise i would second bruce on teh "I don't know" response to questions about why people golf and fish!
posted by WeekendJen at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

One other thing they do, which once caused me to fail an integrity test, is that they have 'paired' questions in different parts of the test that ask what they believe is the same question, and expect the same answer.

The pair I failed on was "Have you ever stolen from work?" vs. "Have you ever taken something home from work?" In my previous job, I'd worked in a small shop where I'd take the bookkeeping to do at home, and then bring it back when I opened in the morning. I even hesitated because I knew it sounded bad, but they'd been so insistent that you should be 100% totally honest in all your answers that I'd assumed it'd be OK and I'd get an opportunity to clarify.

NOPE. It was a machine graded test for a big retail operation and there was no leeway for human intervention even after the hiring manager agreed with me that it was a ridiculous oversight.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:00 PM on March 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

You guys, I don't think syrenka is talking about the test you take to work at a grocery store or Staples (I hate those and I'm pretty sure I've failed a few. What monster invented those anyway?).

OP, if you posted the field and vague level (management, etc) of the job you're applying for you may get a more relevant response.
posted by Poppa Bear at 1:03 PM on March 19, 2014

Poppa Bear: this is a management level position in a sales related field that involves overseeing staff and accounting. Every employee in the company, from receptionist to management has to take the test, and it seemed to be kind of a joke in the hiring manager's opinion.
posted by syrenka at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2014

Any time it asks you to rate a statement that says "many people" or "most people", always answer as if you believe most people are honest. There is a school of thought that says people tend to believe that other people are just like them. So if you say you believe that "most people cheat on their taxes" then it means you probably cheat on your taxes. One trick I've seen is that they try to make the bad thing sound minimal and harmless so you'll say it's ok. So you get things like everybody smokes a little pot on the weekend to unwind and most people make an occasional quick personal phone call during the work day. The answer to these questions should always indicate that you think most people do NOT do those things.
posted by sock puppy at 2:41 PM on March 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone above that this test is trying to find out if you understand that it would be Terribly Wrong to write a personal shopping list on a company Post-It. If you pretend that you're giving your answers to a prim Sunday School teacher who would just faint at the thought of anything remotely improper, you should be fine.

In my brief experience with temping, I discovered that the companies who were the most rabid about integrity tests were the most likely to lie to you about things like the actual nature of the job.
posted by corey flood at 7:58 PM on March 19, 2014

I have never taken one of those things, so discount my opinion accordingly, but St. Peepsburg's point seems important to me---based on everything I've read about them, they are not just looking for prim Sunday school teacher ("nobody ever takes a post it home!") but also sheepishly obedient and subservient. So of COURSE you would surrender your own plans to help out some random stranger. You exist to serve strangers, like your coworkers and customers!
posted by paultopia at 7:15 AM on March 23, 2014

I think the advice you've marked best is generally good. But if it were me giving these tests, well, I'd stop giving these tests. BUT if it were me giving these tests, I wouldn't grade the same for a manger as I would for a retail clerk.

For the clerk, I'd want a minimum AND maximum score, making an acceptable range in the middle. Some of these questions, when answered "correctly" could show a shocking naivety about human nature, when taken all together. Or that the candidate is a skilled bullshitter, not an especially great quality for that job.

For the manager, the same test could be given for a completely different metric. It might test the manager candidate's ability to guess what the tester's goal is, align his goal to the same thing, and achieve that goal regardless of personal feelings. Then you'd want them to score "perfectly" even knowing they were 100% full of shit.

Maybe I'm overthinking this.
posted by ctmf at 11:05 AM on March 23, 2014

Update: My version of this was an incredibly brief test with exactly the kind of questions you all listed.

Unfortunately, and I have no idea how or why, it seems I failed. I also had to consent to a credit and background check, both of which should have been clean as far as I know, and the testing company is required by law to provide me with a copy of the package they sent the company that opted not to hire me, so perhaps that will shed some light.

On to the next one!
posted by syrenka at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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