Job Interview: How To Tell If the Candidate Will Lie, Cheat, Steal?


He doesn’t go to church.

Knight and Bozell_culture_and_media_institute.JPG

Bob Knight and Brent Bozell

Photo Credit: Michelle S. Humphrey

from the Media Research Center It seemed that many of the clients of Your Business Blogger were having challenges finding integrity in job candidates. Even business schools are forced to teach ethics. Goodness.

So I ask Bob Knight, who runs the Culture and Media Institute a part of Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center about this. Bob’s team just released a report, The National Cultural Values Survey.

Smart Human Resource gurus have always used an unspoken, intuitive cultural profiling to test job candidates.

Bob Knight’s Survey quantifies with hard numbers what managers have all been feeling over the last few years.

And it turns out the HR professionals may have been right. People these days have a …flexible compass on truth.

The Culture and Media Institute released this report at The National Press Club on Wednesday in Washington, DC. I ask Bob, “What should hiring managers use to determine a good job candidate from one that would break the law, lie, or use drugs?”

“This is a problem for business and for us all,” Bob said later. The variable on honesty can be measured by the professed attendance at a house of worship. “The determining line would be going to church at least twice a month.” However, Bob was quick to remind me, “You can’t ask that in a job interview.”

Questions based on Faith Based Hiring practices would be, well, discriminating.

In favor of the crooks and liars and liberals.

In The National Cultural Values Survey: America: A Nation in Moral and Spiritual Confusion, Bob finds that,

The survey reveals that 74 percent of Americans believe the nation is in moral decline, and that a culture war is indeed occurring in America.

Indeed. First-line supervisors see this daily and battle with the challenge of finding ways of selecting good employees.

Managers would often gauge an aspect of culture and class of a job candidate by observing the prospective employee’s behavior at a restaurant. Table manners were important, but the astute manager watched how the candidate would treat the wait staff.

Bob Knight’s Survey takes this test to a higher level and gives a vignette on measuring honesty in a table called, Cheating on a Restaurant Bill,

You are out to dinner with a group of friends. When the check arrives you notice that several

items are missing from the bill. Your friends say you should just pay the bill, and that it’s the

restaurant’s own fault for making the mistake. What would you do?

85% of church-going conservatives would Tell the waiter and pay the right amount. Only 52% of the Godless liberals would be forthright.

The 18th-century atheist and culturally-correct philosphe, Voltaire, recognized this problem. Even though he believed Christianity was an “infamy,” he wrote that “I want my attorney, my tailor, my servants, even my wife to believe in God.”

Voltaire wanted this accountability to God not for his employee’s eternal salvation, but as a Total Quality Management System. “…Then I shall be robbed and cuckolded less often,” he concluded.

The Frenchman and the Jesus-loving Christians. Voltaire hated them. But he hired them.

And so should you.


Thank you (foot)notes:

If you are a manager, please comment on your favorite (legal) tactics to find honest employees.

What’s the One Best Question to Ask a Job Candidate?

Also see MRC’s Business and Media site.


And mark your calendars for Media Research Center’s 20th Anniversary Gala on 29 March. Your Business Blogger and Charmaine will be there with some of the smartest people in DC. You be there too.

Business Pundit has more data that supports one of Bob’s findings — children make us more honest and better people. See Do Parents Make Better Managers?

See Mike Paul’s Reputation Doctor.

All links are unpaid.

Read Major Findings of the Survey at the jump.

Major findings

I. Americans believe the nation is in moral decline, and that the news and entertainment media

are major contributors to the slide.

74 percent, including majorities of every major demographic group, say they believe moral

values in America are weaker than they were 20 years ago.

48 percent say moral values are much weaker than they were 20 years ago.

68 percent, including majorities of virtually every demographic group, say the media –

entertainment and news alike – are having a detrimental effect on moral values in America.

64 percent agree the news and entertainment media exercise powerful influence over

American moral values. In fact, the substantial majority (74 percent) who believe moral

values are weaker than twenty years ago consider the media to be the second greatest

influence on moral values after parents and families.

II. Consensus remains high on the importance of classical virtues like industry, truthfulness,

thrift, and charity.

Industry: 88 percent believe in consistently doing their best on the job.

Truthfulness: 51 percent say lying is always wrong, and 46 percent accept lying only to

protect someone else’s feelings.

Thrift: A solid majority, 59 percent, believe in saving for the future even if it means making

sacrifices now. An additional 38 percent will save when they can. Thus the great majority

of Americans embrace the concept of delayed gratification.

Charity: 94 percent of American adults believe in giving to others. 45 percent say they give

regardless of their circumstances, and 49 percent say they help when they can. Religious

beliefs exercise great influence over attitudes toward charity: religious people are far more

committed to giving than secular people.

III. But what happens when the rubber meets the road? While Americans say they believe

in the classical virtues, they often fail to follow through. Significant numbers admit they are

willing to act dishonestly in everyday life.

33 percent of American adults say they would cheat the government by working under the

table while receiving unemployment benefits.

25 percent admit they would cheat a restaurant that left items off a bill.

25 percent believe the use of illegal drugs by adults is acceptable.

IV. Personal and societal sexual moral standards are crumbling.

16 percent say sex between unmarried adults is never wrong, and 49 percent more say it

depends on the situation. 65 percent of Americans will excuse sex outside marriage.

Only 67 percent believe premarital sex among high school kids is always wrong.

Only 49 percent think homosexuality is wrong. A mere 14 percent say homosexuality is

right, but 26 percent say it depends on the situation.

51 percent describe themselves as “pro-choice,” though only 8 percent believe abortion is

“morally right.”

45 percent say divorce should be legal for any reason at any time.

V. America is losing its fear of God.

87 percent of Americans say they believe in God and 52 percent say they believe the Bible is

God’s authoritative word.

But only 36 percent believe people should live by God’s principles. 15 percent say they

will live by their own principles even if they conflict with God’s principles, and 45 percent

prefer to combine God’s teachings and their own values.

In defiance of the Bible’s prohibition against taking innocent life, 51 percent describe

themselves as “pro-choice,” and 53 percent are willing to tolerate physician-assisted suicide.

28 percent are willing to exclude religious principles from government simply because the

principles are religious in origin. An additional 35 percent will exclude religious principles

from government on certain issues.

Regular churchgoing has dipped below 50 percent among American adults.


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9 Responses

  1. Ugo Cei says:

    I want to know who hired Kenneth Lay.

  2. Jack Yoest says:

    Ugo, Ken Lay was a Preacher’s Kid and, maybe worse, a Methodist.

    A most unfortunate combination sure to doom any man.

    Kenneth Lay would certainly be the example of an out-liar outside the study’s margin of error. The confidence man not in the confidence interval.

    No study is perfect at 100% predictability. No man is perfect.

    See the Reputation Doctor at

    Full Disclosure: Your Business Blogger married into a clan of Methodist missionaries at Asbury College — back when they all believed in Jesus.

    Thank you for your exceptional comment,


  3. DLE says:

    A couple thoughts:

    1. The Wall Street Journal had an eye-opening article about four years ago that examined the flurry of business scandals, noting the religious affiliations of the company leaders. Nearly without exception, all the CEOs, VPs, and so on were Evangelicals of good standing, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, elders, and deacons. And yet, without any remorse for their duplicity.

    The American Church, in many ways, is no different from the world, especially when wealth is involved. We judge the spiritual lives of individuals by how successful they are in business, not how well they’ve died at the cross.

    2. Companies cry crocodile tears when it comes to ethics. The good, hard-working people who give 100% get nothing. They’re the first fired when the RIF comes. The water cooler gang stays on because they played the right games and have the right conections. They guy who does nothing, but knows where all the skeletons are closeted, survives and moves up the ladder. The people who break every moral rule known to mankind get the promotions (as that WSJ article so capably showed).

    The little guy with six kids who stays ethical and makes tough choices about family vs. career, he’s the one who’s cut loose because he can be replaced with a cheaper fresh-from-college grad who has no medical-insurance-consuming family and will sleep under his desk.

    Ethics? Are you kidding me?

  4. Jack Yoest says:

    Dear DLE, You present a compelling review of a segmentation of business leadership which deserves further study.

    (And might extend to the political: The liberal-socialist-Christian Jimmy Carter taught Sunday School.)

    I’m not sure that the business elites are even capitalists. See:

    Thank you for your insights,


  5. Yoest: Business do what they are legally obliged to do: Everything they can to produce profit and benefit their owners and shareholders. One of the main princibles of capitalism is that with enough businesses all trying to climb to the top by fair means or foul, they will collectively achieve a situation in which their customers benefit.

    Usually it works quite well. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    But it should be no surprise that large companies are willing to sabotage competition, manipulate government and abuse their employees in the name of the almightly bottom line. That is just what they are expected to do. Their ability to abuse their power is supposed to be limited by regulation, oversight, and accountability to their customers (who will take their business elsewhere) and to voters (Who are supposed to elect a replacement for any politician who listens blindly to lobbyists).

    Capitalism. Well, it sucks, but its the best anyone has come up with so far. The variations on socialism are even worse, except on the tinyiest of scales.

  6. DLE says:


    Modern business operates off of Darwinian principles–to the extreme. It’s “Kill or be killed” or “The boardroom vs. the mailroom.” That mentality’s not even remotely Christian. People who call themselves Christian, and who operate at higher level in the business world, must at some time either choose Social Darwinism or choose Christ. If they rose to the top of their company, the evidence of that choice is clear–they chose to endorse Darwin.

    This is not to say that you can’t be a Christian in today’s modern business environment. I’m not doubting people’s salvation, only that the majority cannot be operating from a Christian worldview. Their worldview is pragmatic and Darwinian, but it’s not Christian. Nancy Pearcey did a good job in Total Truth exposing this reality–even in large Christian ministries.

    More Christians need to start addressing this. Our Christian leaders think it’s a blessing that someone starts a Bible study at their workplace, but meanwhile the entire foundation of modern business is rotten to the core. The silence on that issue is deafening.

  7. Tracy Coyle says:

    I am agnostic. I am all for people of faith. We need people that will help the poor as I am one that will not. My working career has been primarily at companies where I have been either a direct report to the ownership, or a direct report of someone that was a direct report of the ownership. In every case, ethical behavior was explicitly expected. Staff that did not behave as expected were not necessarily fired or demoted, they were not however given sensitive assigments either.

    My experience is therefore limited. From my interactions with large firms (+1000), I would suggest that an ethical person will become a valued mid-to upper-middle manager and nothing higher.

    Also, anyone that works in an ethical manner can get rid of a piece of …. employee that does not fairly easily. I have on numerous occasions provided the rope for someone to hang themselves in front of management. Ethical?

    Oh, despite the fact that I am agnostic, I attend church services (Episcopalian) 3-4 times a month – my partner and our daughter are devout.

  8. Jack says:

    Tracy, going to church twice a month is a (statistically significant) proxy for obeying the law and keeping off drugs and being the ideal worker.

    It is a challenge to read the human heart but not too difficult to learn a job candidate’s location on a Saturday or Sunday during his faith’s worship hours.

    If you go to church, that would be an excellent start on how to live on this side of eternity. However.

    Some Alert Readers will suggest that you, an agnostic, might be a hypocrit sitting in Church.

    But not me. I would wager that you would be an excellent employee and, as John Adams hoped for his son, a ‘useful citizen.’

    Sadly, as honest as you are, I still have fears for the Episcopal Church…See:

    Thank you for your comment,


  9. design input says:

    ISO 9001 standard is not product specific and can be used by a wide range of manufacturing and service companies. Long time ago, I saw a flag-size poster on a theater in Singapore bragging about its registration to the ISO 9001 standard. One of my European colleagues recently mentioned that he received an application to register a church choir.

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