Employee screening – polygraph vs. integrity test?

Jun 6, 2014


Employee screening – polygraph vs. integrity test?


Do you want to catch a worker out after they’ve told lie? Get to the bottom of theft and corruption when the money is already missing and your reputation is in tatters? A polygraph test is a fallible investigative tool, which many companies use in their employee screening processes. However, with an integrity test you have greater peace of mind that all of your employees are always honest and ethical. This will ensure that employee management – for you – isn’t a headache.

A police officer’s job interview in the north west of America came to a grinding halt after a book, entitled How to Beat a Lie Detector Test, was found in his car. Rogue-CIA-agent-turned-Russian-spy, Aldrich Ames passed a myriad of polygraph tests.

In fact, there is little evidence that polygraph testing can snare a liar. The practice is often shrouded in controversy as there are too many variables and different ways to beat the machine. A polygraph doesn’t prove that someone is guilty; it merely indicates deception.


Polygraph testing in the SA workplace is highly contentious

Without supporting evidence, this method of employee screening is difficult to use as a basis for dismissal. This is made clear in current labour law. In short, relying on polygraph tests is like trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted as they deal with events that have happened in the past. Polygraph tests prove dishonesty and not intention, and are usually disruptive to work patterns and morale in a company, which will make employee management a nightmare.

Take a pro-active approach to employee ethics

Rather than this reactive approach, consider using integrity testing as an integrated strategy to managing your employee’s ethics as an integrity test has more chance of identifying a dishonest employee than a polygraph test does.

Integrity testing in the workplace has been used for more than three decades in other countries. In fact, it was developed when using lie detectors was prohibited in the US. In South Africa, the demand for integrity testing in employee management has grown.

Put your employees to the test

The ethics of people working for you can be probed with background investigations, qualification and education verification, as well as credit checks. As a way to solidify these findings, an integrity test is increasingly required by businesses in South Africa.

The drawback of polygraph tests is that they ask a limited amount of questions and rely on changes in heartbeat or blood pressure. An experienced fraudster can often keep cool under pressure, which makes it easy for him to beat the system. However, an integrity test will measure areas of personality and identify a possible personality pattern that will raise a red flag.

Polygraph tests merely look for potential dishonesty as we expect employees to be honest. However, the trait of integrity is different to mere honesty. Warren Buffet said, "If you’re looking to hire new people, look for three qualities—integrity, intelligence and energy. If you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you." This is a sharp observation. Do you want an intelligent and energetic liar and thief in your organisation?

Is integrity a part of your business philosophy?

Probably the best benefit of integrity testing is that this test will measure the suitability of a candidate for a position.

Knowing that their integrity is being tested and validated is a positive experience for an employee as it creates:

  • Greater consciousness of expected values and behaviours, and
  • A platform for transparency, accountability and fairness within the company.

Other than being a more consistent barometer of personality, integrity tests are also more reasonably priced than a polygraph.

It is never too early to start with integrity testing at your company!




Jenny Reid is the owner of iFacts and started her career in the security industry in 1995, working her way up the corporate ladder. Early on in her career, Jenny developed a passion for employee screening and this is what drives her business today.


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contact us on info@ifacts.co.za for more information or come and visit us.