Honesty and integrity are in critically short supply these days. To Warren Buffett, arguably the world's most successful investor, integrity is a non-negotiable to establishing high-trust teams.
In a 1998 speech at the University of Florida, Buffett gave MBA students a business lesson for competitive advantage that comes from having integrity be the guide to your business decisions. And it starts with whom you hire. Buffett said:
We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.
Integrity should rise above all skills and traits (yes, including IQ) when assessing job candidates. And for good reason: Job-hopping candidates who "fake it till they make it" for a living are notorious for embellishing their stories and padding their résumés to get their foot in the door.
Today's hiring managers must dig hard in the interview process to get the answers they need to feel confident someone has the non-negotiable character of integrity. Otherwise, "lazy and dumb" may eventually cost you.
With integrity, you bring more truth and truth tellers to the business, which makes it very attractive to those seeking honest brands. Integrity infused into the culture of a company differentiates it from the rest and is the core and essence of any great company.
5 questions to ask job candidates
Heeding Buffett's advice, your first call to action is to know how to assess for integrity. It starts with asking the right questions to get to the core of a person's character (in addition to standard tests/assessments, "job auditions," and role-play exercises).
Hiring managers skilled in behavioral interviewing should be asking five questions in a job interview:
1. Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem that challenged fairness or ethical issues. What happened and how did you respond?
2. When was the last time you "broke the rules"? What was the situation and what did you do?
3. When working with people, how would you describe your preferred relationship with them? (Use this question to assess honesty and the capacity for open communication, a clear hallmark of integrity.)
4. What values do you appreciate the most in a team environment? (Use this question to look for other trustworthy traits, like fairness, transparency, and inclusiveness -- all hallmarks of integrity.)
5. If we ever got into a bind with a client, would you be willing to tell a little lie to help us out? (This is a "trick question" to drill down to a person's core values. Anyone operating with integrity will raise a red flag and object to the question. You can explain your motive for asking it later, once you determine the individual has passed the lie test.)