Top 2 Critical Steps: Assessing Work Ethic in Candidates

Oct 09, 2018

Interview For Ethics

One of the biggest challenges for HR leaders is assessing a candidate’s work ethic and personal ethics to help determine whether the individual will be a good fit for your company.

You obviously have not seen the candidate in a work setting to directly evaluate their ethics, which means you need a reliable evaluation method before the individual sets foot in your building.

Unfortunately, many companies make the mistake of relying on subjective evaluations or hypothetical scenarios in a job interview to determine a candidate’s ethics. Some of the pitfall questions include:

  • Mistake -- subjective evaluation: Do you think you have a good work ethic? The problem with a subjective question is that you are asking the candidate to self-diagnose, which is as unreliable as a doctor asking a patient to determine whether they have the flu.
  • Mistake -- hypothetical scenario: If you were asked to perform a task that goes against your ethics, would you still complete the task? The problem with a hypothetical question is that you are allowing the candidate to create a best-case scenario for how they would react that sounds good in a job interview. There is no useful information to be gleaned from the response.

If you rely on the information provided by the candidate when making a hiring decision, you may discover that the candidate came across one way in the interview, but does not live up to expectations in your company.

Hiring based on unreliable information about an individual’s ethics opens the door for missing deadlines, lackluster communication, not helping the team, absenteeism, and employment practices liability (EPL).

So, what’s the solution to unlock a candidate’s work ethics and personal ethics? Consider these two critical steps.

1. Use an Assessment Tool to Objectively Evaluate the Candidate

To accurately assess a candidate’s ethics, you need to start with an assessment tool that objectively evaluates the candidate’s thinking.

An assessment tool that measures thinking -- not personality -- will provide you with insight on the candidate’s emotional intelligence competencies. This evaluation will reveal a candidate’s motivations, which leads to behavior.

What competencies should you specifically focus?

  • Work ethic: Focus on the candidate’s clarity about their commitment to work that aligns with organizational goals.
  • Personal ethics: Focus on the candidate’s clarity in their ability to choose right over wrong by adhering to a strict moral code.

The key to remember is that just because a candidate has clarity in their work ethic does not mean they will have clarity in their personal ethics, or vice versa. Companies often miss the mark by assuming that each form of ethics is the same.

For example, a candidate with clarity in work ethic could have a blindspot in their personal ethics, which means the individual will be self-driven to achieve a specific productivity or revenue goal, but they might cut a few corners or justify an improper action to get there.

On the flip side, a candidate might have clarity with their moral code but have a blindspot in their work ethic. This is the classic employee who has high expectations for everyone else to work hard, but they lose the respect of their peers because they are not self-driven to complete their own tasks.

Once you determine a candidate’s clarity or blindspots in their work commitment and personal ethics, you can structure a behavioral interview to dig deeper into a candidate’s thinking to assess whether the individual is the right fit for your company.

2. Ask These Ethics-Related Questions in a Behavioral Interview

When preparing to conduct a behavioral interview, you need to identify questions that unlock more information about a candidate’s work ethic and personal ethics. These should not be lumped together because you need to gather more details about a candidate’s clarity or blindspots in each area of ethics.

Three Examples of Objective Questions to Assess Work Ethic

  • In your current (or most recent) position, what has been the most satisfying aspect of your work?
  • What has been the most long-term, sustained, extra-hours effort you have been asked to give for a recent project?
  • How did the responsibilities of your most recent position tie to the overall goals and mission of the company?

Three Examples of Objective Questions to Assess Personal Ethics

  • Give me an example of a time when you were faced with a tough ethical decision in your position. What was the situation, the task, your action, and the result?
  • Give me an example of a situation when you chose to “do the right thing” even though it was not a popular choice with your co-workers or a customer?
  • When you faced a situation where your view of the best course of action was different from the standard operating procedure, what action did you take?

These examples highlight the difference between unreliable subjective or hypothetical interview questions and objective interview questions that give you a clear picture of a candidate’s actual work history and the results from their actions.

Then, when you match up the candidate’s thinking with how it manifested itself in behavior and choices in a similar context, you can reliably evaluate the candidate’s ethics to determine whether the individual fits your company.

How to Conduct a Highly-Effective Behavioral Interview

When you are targeting a candidate’s ethics in the job interview process, you want to make the evaluation as efficient and straightforward as possible.

The key is being able to conduct a highly-effective behavioral interview. Developing this skill will enable you to quickly make a determination without spending much time trying to sort through each candidate’s ethical indicators.

ZERORISK HR offers a two-hour Behavioral Interview training course to help you understand and implement effective behavioral interview techniques. Then, you will be equipped to apply the training in your hiring process to better identify the right candidates.

This course is a critical investment that will pay off in the long run improving your hiring decision-making, reducing your risk of hiring individuals with poor work ethics or personal ethics, and helping you train other interviewers in your company.

You can take the course at any time on your own schedule. To get started, visit the training page today.

ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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