<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How to NOT Hire a Murderer

August 1, 2013

140306328 unknownHigh profile cases in the media, like the Boston bombing and the man in Cleveland who held young women hostage for years -- make all of us a little weary of human nature. People interacted with these men on a daily basis and would never have known they were capable of these actions. We are all left shaking our heads wondering why they would do these things and how no one knew that this could happen.

As a psychologist and a human resource professional, my mind immediately wants to understand them so that we can be sure to prevent our clients from hiring people like them (and to keep myself and my family from coming into contact with them). It is difficult to make a hiring decision about someone with the limited amount of information you are able to collect during the selection process. So, how can you make sure that your next hire isn’t another Jeffrey Dahmer?

Well, you can honestly never be 100% sure, but you can reduce your risk greatly through the use of employment tests. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, talked about how many teams in the NFL use personality tests as part of their process when drafting new players. The results for recently arrested and terminated New England Patriots player, Aaron Hernandez, showed some potential red flags in his personality profile.

His profile results stated that he “enjoyed living on the edge of acceptable behavior.” Several teams took the risk seriously and passed on him. Some speculate that his test results are why he was drafted in the 4th round instead of the 1st given his great football talent. While Mr. Hernandez has not been convicted of any crimes, it appears that the personality test was able to pick up on a pattern of thinking and behavior that led him to be involved in unprofessional behavior, to say the least.

What did that personality test see that others did not? What predicts counterproductive or criminal behavior? I am not personally familiar with the test the NFL uses, but research suggests that there are four personality factors that can help identify people who are more likely than others to be involved in low integrity behaviors.  These behaviors can be as minor as stealing paperclips or as serious as harming others. Either way, they can turn out to be bad hires. Look for personality tests that cover these factors:

  • Impulsivity: Individuals who are more likely to engage in counterproductive or criminal behaviors are less likely than others to be able to control their impulses. They have difficulty with self-regulation and discipline. Typically there is a pattern of this behavior throughout their lives.

  • Lack of Empathy: Individuals who are more likely to engage in low integrity behaviors are more likely to take advantage of others and manipulate situations for their own personal gain. They show little remorse for hurting or wronging others. They believe that if others allow themselves to be taken advantage of, then they deserve it.

  • Lack of Accountability: Individuals who are more likely to engage in counterproductive or criminal behavior have lower levels of personal responsibility and tend to blame others for problems and issues they encounter. Someone else is always at fault for the bad things that happen to them.

  • Low Respect Rules: Individuals who are more likely to engage in low integrity behaviors tend to have more negative attitudes towards authority, rules, and procedures. They tend to believe that rules do not always apply to them and will only follow the ones that benefit them.

We can’t promise that every person who exhibits these characteristics will get into trouble, but we can tell you that there is an increased chance of it. If you have the opportunity to hire someone else with the same technical skills who does not possess these characteristics, we recommend it. 

  all employee assessment alike


Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Director of Global Innovation at PSI and an expert in the design, development, and validation of psychological assessment tools. She runs an innovation lab that is responsible for establishing PSI’s assessment technology roadmap and strategy. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous global assessments, including personality, situational judgment, cognitive, and interactive work simulations.