Identifying Abnormal Behaviour Before You Hire it – Compulsive Liars are Consistent

An interesting, but not uncommon situation arose this week about Identifying Abnormal Behaviour. A new client rang us to ask if the assessment we used in the recent selection process for her company could pick if the candidate was a liar. “No”, we replied. “Why do you ask?”

The story went something like this – A month ago this company narrowed their pool of applicants down to three strong candidates for their customer service role. Each candidate was assessed using the Rembrandt Portrait. This assessment is an ideal tool for identifying the problem solving and personality attributes that drive customer service behaviour.

Two of the applicants had numerous “red flags” that led us to advise the client to screen these out. The remaining applicant had an excellent “fit” for a customer service role and was subsequently interviewed and hired.

Almost immediately when she commenced duties she began asking for time off. The reasons were very convincing and based on family issues. As an aside, her profile had very strong scores in all the sales attributes. She used these to great effect.

Within the first month she had, and got, three leaves of absence. For her forth request she drummed up a story that her mother was terminally ill and she had to catch a plane immediately to be by her side.

Her manager was getting suspicious. This was confirmed the next day when the manager bumped into her employee shopping in the market. The pressure for her to “come clean” resulted in her resigning with no explanation. Needless to say the manager was shell-shocked. How did all this happen?

A psychometric profile, designed to assess “job fit” cannot identify Identifying Abnormal Behaviour or compulsive liars, or other clinical personality disorders. Psychopaths are a good example. A selection assessment on these individuals would produce a glowing report of a person who is empathic, assertive and an extrovert with a very persuasive personality.

Another point is that often people with these types of issues are masters at managing their self impression. They are very good at pretending to be someone they are not, or think they are a specific way when all their associates have a totally different picture.

As personality psychologist, Robert Hogan explains, “This is the difference between reputation and identity.” Identity is how you feel about yourself and reputation is about how other people see you. But we’ll leave this for another article!

All workplace personality assessments have “triggers” to highlight faking or are set up in way that is very hard to manipulate the assessment, keeping them outside the office using access control system. However, some people will always try and cheat the system. That is why we always say assessments are very good at showing you the “red flags”, but not always perfect at identifying the “stars”. Reason? A job applicant is hardly going to fake bad (although I have encountered this!).

So what’s the answer to Identifying Abnormal Behaviour or unusual workplace behaviour that can’t be assessed through a validated selection assessment? Make sure you checkout the candidate’s past work behaviours by using the reference and background checking process. Past behaviour reflects future behaviour. You can bet that the above employee’s compulsive lying would have been exhibited in her previous work experience. Our client did no reference checking!

In summary, whilst normal personality characteristics will highlight potential problems in specific job roles, it does not explain abnormal behaviour; we’ll leave this to psychiatrists. However, a conscientious reference and background checking process will more than likely highlight these issues.

For Identifying Abnormal Behaviour, don’t just rely on the reference the candidate has given; these people are normally workplace friends, or set-ups. Ask permission to check other key stakeholders in her/his previous positions. This way you are likely to get a more valid picture of your candidate’s behaviours.