You may have heard the phrase “Most managers hire for skills, but fire for character.” This post is dedicated to helping you balance out your hiring process. You can learn a lot by reviewing a candidate’s resume, but it will never give you one of the most important pieces of information that you need to make the best hiring decision. Many interviewers and hiring committees screen for technical competence and culture fit, but few dig deep enough to discern whether the candidate possesses a high level of integrity. Mostly, interviewers neglect to do it because it is difficult to screen for. But it be done. Warren Buffett said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Here are some tips to help ensure that you make the most informed hiring decision:

Craft Interview Scenario Questions
Using questions that require your candidate to think about what they would do in a particular situation will give you valuable insight into their judgment, values and integrity and where they stand in terms of critical thinking skills. Devise questions that will allow you to take a peek into the person’s level of integrity. Begin by thinking about issues surrounding honesty, dependability, and trustworthiness that have arisen in the past and ask your candidate what they would do given the same circumstances.

For example, you might ask questions like:

  • Suppose that you’ve committed to deliver your piece of a project to your project team leader by Friday. But, on Wednesday you start to sense that you may not be able to deliver your component on time. What would you do?
  • When making client commitments and commitments to co-workers, what measures do you take to ensure that you are able to meet their expectations?
  • What do you do if you are unable to fulfill on a promise that you made to a client?

Here are some other sample interview questions suggested by the Integrity Training Institute:

  • What about your character makes you a good candidate for this job?
  • How have you responded in the past when you found another employee was stealing or being untruthful?
  • Two hours before you are scheduled to arrive at work, you learn weather is going to be bad and traffic will be worse. How do you respond?
  • Have you ever suffered for doing what is right? Any regrets? Why were you willing to suffer loss for that?

You can see the Integrity Training Institute’s complete list of sample interview questions here:

Consider Administering a Pre-Employment Assessment

Consider administering a pre-employment survey that screens for integrity. You may already give your candidates assessments during the interview process, but chances are that they are either personality or skills assessments. There are some surveys or assessments that are designed specifically to look for character qualities. For example, The Assessment Specialists Inc. offers a report called the Integrity/Work Ethic Report which is designed to screen for traits including integrity, work ethic and reliability.

Another option is to administer our Leadership Attributes Evaluation. We have designed a revealing self-evaluation tool that you can use to gain insight into various key character qualities that are important to you. We use it as part of our performance evaluation process, but it is also a key component of the recruiting process It includes twenty attributes by which your candidate will rate themselves on.

The results are extremely telling. While you will hope to see fairly high scores across the board, you should expect that if the person is being honest in their self-assessment, there should typically be some characteristics that are in need of strengthening and improvement. Low scores in certain attributes should raise a definite red flag, while it may not be as concerning if they rate themselves low in terms of others. For example, if your candidate rates themselves low in terms of compassion, this may not be a deal breaker, but if they rate themselves low in honesty, this should raise a huge red flag even if they are highly competent technically. On the other hand, you might also raise a skeptical eye if your candidate rates themself top scores on every single attribute. This may indicate that they are not being honest in their self-assessment or they may lack self-insight about their strengths and areas of development. You can access a copy of the Leadership Attributes Assessment by clicking here.

How do you qualify for character during the hiring process? Do you have any favorite interview or reference checking questions that you ask? Please feel free to share them by posting a comment. We would love to hear your ideas! Please also post any questions that you may still have about selecting the “right” candidate for your firm.

Best regards,

*Remember, before implementing any hiring, interview or reference checking procedure, please consult with your attorney and the labor laws in your state.