What does failing an "integrity test" mean for me?
January 5, 2007 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I failed an "integrity test" when applying for a sales job at a popular retailer. What does this mean?

I applied for a temp job when I was back home from college so I could make some money over winter break at a pretty big name retailer of bath supplies. It was almost certain I had the job, I have a pretty good resume, previous sales experience, nothing that would bar me from getting a minimum wage position, was well recommended by a current employee. Unfortunately, I wasn't hired because I had failed an integrity test all applicants had to take over the phone.

What I would like to know is if this can follow me into the future. In taking the test, I had to provide my social security number. Can the result from this test be used against me by future potential employers? What are my rights? Is this discrimination?

Secondly, what did I do wrong? I am almost certain I didn't make any silly mistakes, such as mistake yes for no, or misinterpret any question. I guess you'd have to take my word for it, but I'm pretty sure I am not an immoral person. More broadly, assuming I didn't make any errors in answering the question, am I just an immoral person without knowing it? Am I more prone to stealing than I would lead myself to believe?
posted by mwang1028 to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never taken a test like that myself, but based on my reading of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, my impression is that these sorts of tests are actually testing your obsequiousness to authority. For instance, the "right" answer to the question "Is it ever okay to lie to your boss?" is "No."
posted by BackwardsCity at 9:30 PM on January 5, 2007


It was probably some arbitrarily silly thing that some "expert" came up with, to help them weed through applicants... If I were you, I'd try not to worry too much about it (I know that's easier said than done).
posted by amyms at 9:31 PM on January 5, 2007


I guess you'd have to take my word for it

In light of recent events, I'm not sure I can do that. :)

I'm pretty sure they won't pass the results on to other employers; it's probably illegal and, more importantly, impractical. What kind of questions do you remember from the test, and what did you answer? That seems to be the only way to go about figuring out why you failed.
posted by danb at 9:33 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


People sue testing companies over these things. Don't worry about it and move on. If you're interested in how the legal system deals with these tests - here's a good Google search:
"Pre-employment testing" lawsuit
posted by Gerard Sorme at 9:34 PM on January 5, 2007


Why on earth would you give someone your SS# before you are hired? That's just crazy. The only reason an employer would need it if for reporting taxes on wages earned or doing a background check. If the latter, I'm pretty sure they need signed consent from you before they can run it.
posted by camworld at 9:36 PM on January 5, 2007


camworld is right, don't give you SS number until hired. And that test is nothing more than head office bafflegab and is meaningless....somewhere out there you'll find a job from an employer that has common sense. Likely a better work environment.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:46 PM on January 5, 2007


I failed one for BestBuy about six years ago. My best friend comes from like the family of saints, and she failed one for a job at a hotel. I wouldn't worry too much. As BackwardsCity says, this is more about how much you bow to authority than it is how much integrity you have. They deal in black-and-white instead of shades of gray.

I'd call up the company and tell them that failing their integrity test shows how truthful you really are, and then explain in great detail how thankful you are that you don't have to work at their hive. Goodbye!
posted by PandemicSoul at 10:12 PM on January 5, 2007


One of my friends briefly worked for a Canadian retailer that's known for more than just car parts. They learned that the "integrity" test there helped them find people who would lie to customers but who would do whatever their managers told them. My friend was shocked to be hired, since he had said he'd lie to customers and that he would never question a manager. He hated stocking shelves and quit after a month. However, he remained convinced that the test helped the company find employees who would say, "Oh, yeah...that was in the flyer...but it's still on the truck."
posted by acoutu at 10:16 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Even if the specific test you were given has been determined by some reasonable process to have some degree of validity (and I wouldn't bet too much that it has), this only means that the group of people who got result X contains more thieves than the group of people who got result Y. It doesn't even mean that the majority of group X (or even a large number of them) are thieves. The test is being used to minimize overall risk, not to identify individual thieves.
posted by winston at 10:18 PM on January 5, 2007


Can the result from this test be used against me by future potential employers?

no, companies do not share this sort of data, and it isn't reported to any sort of central agency. the only way i can see it every coming up again is if you apply for another job at the same company (perhaps another division, if it is a large retailer).
posted by jimw at 10:44 PM on January 5, 2007


no, companies do not share this sort of data, and it isn't reported to any sort of central agency

I thought Choicepoint maintained their pre-employment tests in their database. Is this not the case?

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posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:28 PM on January 5, 2007


An integrity test for a sales job? Perhaps you had too much! (Yes, I'm serious)
posted by ryanrs at 1:51 AM on January 6, 2007


One of my friends applied for a part-time job at a chain of hip clothing and housewares stores, and was required to take an ethics test. For the people that have never taken a test like this, one question (paraphrased) was something along these lines:

An employee with two children has worked for several years at a small retail outlet. Frequently, his rent payments are due at a point in the month between paychecks. To cover the payment, he takes the necessary money out of the register and replaces it in full upon receipt of his paycheck. One day, his supervisor discovers him replacing money in the register and fires him. Was the supervisor justified?

My friend answered "no." He's pretty sure that this answer cost him the integrity test and the job in question. From a retailer's perspective, the choice they're looking for is clear, but the shades of gray involved with the question and the potential "gotcha" of answering truthfully vs. kissing ass seems like such a hoop to jump through for a minimum-wage job that it hardly seems worth the effort.

I wouldn't worry about failing an integrity test, since no job worth having would place the final descision in the hands of such inane questionnaires.
posted by sixacross at 1:55 AM on January 6, 2007


the potential "gotcha" of answering truthfully

I've heard they ask things like "have you ever shoplifted" and if you say no they put you down as deceptive.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:36 AM on January 6, 2007


That is my understanding as well. I failed one years ago at a once-famous chain record store and was told by someone (not the manager) I knew at the store that the problem was that I stated in the test that I had never been drunk and never tried cigarettes or pot, and this marked me as deceptive, because I guess the assumption was that everyone has at least tried something. But I was pretty young and had answered the questions honestly. (I also had never shoplifted, so I probably got dinged for that bit of honesty too.)
posted by litlnemo at 4:26 AM on January 6, 2007


uh, sixacross. . . I don't see any shades of gray there.
posted by megatherium at 6:07 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've taken a few of these, back in the day. Yes, they're partly about kowtowing to authority figures (particularly on the job), but also about ratting out the occasional cow-orker (as sixacross relates). Mostly, though, I think they're about the willingness to submit to potentially humiliating and meaningless "tests" put together by companies whose HR policies take for granted that all employees are potential crooks, and all potential employees are too.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:25 AM on January 6, 2007


I currently work for a large chain bookstore that had a similar test for applicants, except this test was geared more towards how much of "team player" you are. I had applied to this particular chain last summer, and answered all of the questions truthfully (yes, there are times in my life when I prefer to be alone rather than working in a group); I wasn't called for an interview. This summer, I applied again and gave the answers that HR wanted to hear (I never want to be alone and always prefer working with others! I am never sad or irritable!); I was promptly hired.

These tests do not measure integrity or job skills - they only measure your ability to know what your boss wants to hear and then say it. Some might say this is deceptive and pointless, others might say that's just what it's like working retail...
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 7:02 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


What I wanted to say but failed to mention in my previous comment was this: if the chain I work for didn't even bother to check the results of a previous test I had taken with them before hiring me, chances are they aren't going to be bothering to share that information with anyone else.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 7:06 AM on January 6, 2007


What Backwards city said.
posted by xammerboy at 7:43 AM on January 6, 2007


uh, sixacross. . . I don't see any shades of gray there.
posted by megatherium at 9:07 AM EST on January 6 [+] [!]


They caught him in the act that proves his honesty. The shades of grey are called compassion.

mwang1028, I hope the answers here have convinced you that there is nothing wrong with your integrity. These tests are complete garbage.
posted by carmen at 7:49 AM on January 6, 2007


carmen writes "They caught him in the act that proves his honesty. The shades of grey are called compassion."

Taking the money in the first place is dishonest. IN that particular hypothetical example, the right thing to do is ask the supervisor for an advance.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:04 AM on January 6, 2007


...someone (not the manager) I knew at the store that the problem was that I stated in the test that I had never been drunk and never tried cigarettes or pot, and this marked me as deceptive, because I guess the assumption was that everyone has at least tried something.

This sounds similar to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. I took this years ago during marriage counseling. It has questions like "If you knew you wouldn't get caught, would you sneak into a movie?" and other innocuous wrongs peppered throughout. If you say you wouldn't do these things, you get branded as dishonest. I seriously would not. I found this all out late, which maybe explains why the therapist seemed dubious of me.
posted by The Deej at 8:14 AM on January 6, 2007


They caught him in the act that proves his honesty. The shades of grey are called compassion.

I see no shade of gray here either. You take from the till, you've broken a very SERIOUS company rule. And broke the law. If I go into a bank and steal money, then take it back a few days later, I've still robbed the bank.

Even if someone might see this as an act of compassion, it can be a slippery slope to *not* fire the person. If you don't fire him, he feels that taking out of the till occasionally is okay since he got away with it. Keeping someone you know "borrowed" money from the cash drawer is probably one of the stupidest business decisions a manager could make.
posted by Doohickie at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2007


I've always assumed that these tests had the opposite of the intended consequence - The people who pass them are liars who will say anything to get a job.

Then I read sixacross's comment and now I think they may be somewhat effective after all.
posted by mzurer at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2007


I think sixacross's example is a bad one. I took an integrity test that had questions like these:

You and a coworker work in an electronics store. Your coworker is always complaining that he doesn't have any money. One day he comes in to work with an expensive new iPod and headphones, and a new cell phone, all items that you sell in your store. What should you do?

Correct answer [paraphrased]: TATTLE. (you know, despite any REAL evidence that he stole from your store.)

Why might people steal? Possible answers: Because they find themselves in a desperate situation / for the thrill / to support a drug habit / because they are inherently bad.

Correct answer: probably any answer but the first one.
posted by peep at 10:08 AM on January 6, 2007


That they gave you this test over the phone intrigues me. Could they have used a voice stress analyzer on you and decided you were lying on some of your answers?
posted by jamjam at 10:58 AM on January 6, 2007


I took one of those once, and was tipped off by someone in HR that all they want is black & white. The questions are phrased ambiguously, "the children were starving", etc., but the right answer is yes or no, not any of the in between choices.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:57 AM on January 6, 2007


If you're smart enough to beat the tests (or figure them out), you're too smart to be working retail.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2007


the right answer is yes or no, not any of the in between choices.

I'd simply skip the questions where I didn't agree with any of the answers. If this was done by interview (phone or in person) and HR person challenged me on that, then I would engage them in conversation and develop a more complex answer. If it was a written or automated test and it wouldn't allow me to skip the question, then so be it: "Press 1 for yes. Press 2 for no. You didn't make a selection. Press 1 for yes. Press 2 for no...." [ hangs up phone]

That's not the sort of job I could handle anyhow.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:04 PM on January 6, 2007


Not directly answering your question, but a little anecdote about these integrity tests. I once participated in a study for something like this at the business school at my university. They gave cash incentives to people who passed the test... the irony is that the goal of the task was not necessarily to respond honestly, but to get the job. I ended up getting the cash by responding to questions with a very submissive attitude like the boss is always right, defer to the boss, company comes first, that kind of thing.
posted by perpetualstroll at 4:42 PM on January 6, 2007


So the people who write these test are a bunch of drunk, smoking, pothead, movie-sneaker-inners!
posted by The Deej at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2007


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