I am planning to start a retail business soon. As such, my business will have a shop, and a cashier for collecting fees from customers.

I would like to recruit someone to open the doors each morning or lock the doors in the evening. This person would also likely be responsible for the cashier as well. I would come to the shop almost daily, but it isn't very practical to have me stay in the shop all day. Usually there are a few employees in the shop, but there may be quiet periods in the day when this person is alone.

Of course, I can have security cameras in place, log the amount of cash in the cashier etc. I would also guide this person in the role in the beginning, but at some point I have to trust him/her, otherwise there is no meaning paying to someone for work.

How should I identify an honest candidate in an interview? Should I offer an probation period? What are the signs that an employee is not completely honest?

  • 14
    Trust is something that is built up mutually over a period of time, I doubt there's a surefire way to test for it in an interview environment. I await the answers with interest however, ready to be proved wrong!
    – davidjwest
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:17
  • I really doubt that there is any simple answer. Though this is one of the reasons you want to check with past employers, they may not feel they can answer such questions.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:19
  • 8
    @keshlam: Many people (especially these days) who go into bankruptcy do so for honest reasons. Many people with mental health issues are basically honest. Although with attitudes such as you display, they may understandably hide these issues. Furthermore, there are people with criminal records who've been wrongly convicted, changed their life, or whose record isn't a reflection of their honesty for other reasons.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:29
  • 4
    @GreenMatt The reality of employee risk management in business is that the cost of passing over a good employee is much much lower than the cost of hiring a bad one. As such, businesses will use such information, even if it means passing up some good candidates, as long as it helps on eliminating bad candidates. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:54
  • 2
    If you're opening a small business for yourself for the first time, can you afford to pay someone to open or close up for you? Or would you be better off making that time sacrifice to save the money to be able to invest it in your business?
    – Bobson
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 20:17

5 Answers 5


As davidjwest says, trust is something that is earnt and built over time so, to some degree, you have to make a leap of faith and hope you get the right person.

So, effectively, you're into mitigation and improving your chances and I'd suggest that's what work history is for. I'd personally be looking for someone with reasonably long periods in one place, is coming from another job and has had responsibility before.

Or, in other words, someone whose last employer trusted them.

  • 8
    And also, contact that last employer. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:47
  • How do people get their first jobs, when they don't have a "last employer" who trusts them? Also, why do you assume that the employer is always right? It could well be that the employee was wrongly accused of stealing money to cover the higher-ups who actually did it. C-level executives have been caught doing fraud worth millions of dollars, and they will continue to do so.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 16:28
  • 14
    @Happy Most people don't have first jobs with keyholder and management responsibility.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 16:51

You can look into criminology research to see why people commit crimes and then see which issues you can either interview for or directly control. These are still not a guarantee though.


  • Lack of bad credit.
  • Benefits/compensation they are happy with (people who think they have a good job are less likely to do something that could cost them their job).
  • Enjoys the work (see above).
  • Professional and personal references who consider them honest and trustworthy, especially if they were in a similar position of trust.
  • You having a system in place that will catch errors (both honest accidents or dishonest intentional mistakes).
  • No criminal record.
  • Clean drug test.
  • Passes background check.

Please note, a person can still be honest meeting only some or even none of these and someone who meets all of them can still be dishonest. Neither the courts, nor the military, nor the three letter agencies, nor the banks have a system that guarantees honesty. You can at best copy the systems they have, realizing that it is imperfect.

  • A great list. I admit "personal reference" would be the #1 for me - both because someone I trust telling me they trust someone else makes me feel more confident that we share the definition of "trust" and also the idea that the personal connection adds some level of disincentive to being dishonest and tarnishing the opinion of the original reference. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 21:54
  • the "no criminal record" thing is interesting - there's been some discussion about this on the radio recently - what if the record is for something a dumb teenager does, and they haven't reoffended in 10 or 20 years?
    – HorusKol
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 0:15
  • @HorusKol You could also look at the differences between crimes. Busted with pot or underage drinking/sexting/etc. are nowhere near as relevant as having committed theft or fraud. But that is beyond the level of detail for a general purpose question (compared to, say, a question on how should past crimes impact a hiring decision). Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 13:42
  • Some jurisdictions won't give you any details in a background/criminal records check - you just get "(no) record found" - of course, if the applicant tells you it was for lifting a magazine or something, once, then you have to trust they're not masking something more serious.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 23:27
  • I wouldn't put a great deal of stock in credit ratings. The 2008-2011 depression still ripples through a lot of people's lives, today. Also, medical bills can wipe out families for decades. The criminal record and references would be important. I would look closely at the offenses in the criminal records, if they're there. Getting a misdemeanor conviction for a stupid college prank is a whole lot different than embezzling from the PTA. Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 18:14

You can do background checks but you need to "keep the honest people honest." There should be procedures in place to reconcile the drawer, deposits and inventory. People need to know you care enough to monitor these things. Put consequences in place if things are not accurate. It could be due to theft, carelessness, etc., but you just can't have this going on in your business.

I worked at a movie theater and we counted every cup and box of candy nightly. It may not be practical to do this every night, but on some regular basis with a few "spot-checks" every once in a while. It's just good business.


Unlike the pseudo-psychological "honesty test", I have at least heard of companies doing real honesty tests: Let's say you refund a candidate his or her expenses for coming to the interview. In case of a good candidate, you make a small mistake in the calculation of the expenses, say $100 in their favour - small enough not to hurt you, enough to be noticed. Then you wait for the phone call of the candidate asking how to return the extra $100 to you.

  • 1
    I like this. I was just thinking how I'd react. I'd probably start out with, "It's probably just a typo somewhere, but I was sent more than what my expense report was for." etc., etc. The fact that this was a "test" would have completely snuck by me. I like it! :) Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 18:10
  • 4
    I don't like this. The fact that I ran a "test" for their honesty means (a) I suspect others easily and do not trust people (b) I am dishonest (the purpose of the refund was not to truly refund, but to test the candidate). If I were the candidate, I'd run away immediately from companies that play games like this to see if they can "outsmart" the candidates.
    – mandy
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 18:51
  • On the other hand, I have dealt with enough companies where management simply doesn't care about $100 errors in their favor, and my attempts to actually report such issues are ignored. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 22:07

What you are proposing is called "honesty testing". Many companies, especially banks, do it routinely, but are very secretive about it for obvious reasons. There are written honesty tests you can buy. Honesty tests are impossible to fool unless the person actually knows the design of the test or has specialized experience in the psychological testing field. With a written test, however, it will be obvious you are testing for honesty to any intelligent person.

You can also use plain human judgement to detect honesty levels. A dishonest person will take shortcuts in everything they do and vice versa. A dishonest person will exaggerate their accomplishments and hide negative facts. Analyze the resume to determine the extent to which it is faked up. A dishonest person will often be very calculating and disengenuous. One approach is to try to find some embarassing weakness in their background and probe them about it. If they become uncomfortable or evasive or phony, it is an indication of dishonesty. Another approach is to put them under pressure and if they begin to smile, try to make jokes or otherwise disarm you, it is an indication of a dishonest mind.

Often honesty can be determined just from appearance. A dishonest person is more likely to wear jewelry, makeup, have elaborate hairdoes and use disguise elements, like sunglasses and scarves.

A simple test for honesty is to arrange for the candidate to be in a place where they are not observed and leave a piece of trash on the floor with a trash can some distance away. If the candidate puts the trash in the trash can, they are honest. This test can be modulated. Smaller pieces of trash farther away from the can are a stronger test. You can even eliminate the can entirely. Somebody who picks up a small piece of trash and puts it in their pocket to throw it away later will be scrupulously honest, a very high bar.

A similar test is to leave a picture akilter or something knocked over. If the person corrects the problem when left alone, it is an indication of honesty.

The reason tests like these work is because an honest person is taught to think of others and be considerate, but a dishonest person will think only of themselves and act in a selfish way.

  • 6
    Do you have any citations to back up these assertions?
    – nobody
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:14
  • 7
    @Socrates Actually, I downvoted you because it's a load of pseudo-psychology with little, if any, backing in reality. I'd certainly not have time for the kind of company that employs tricks like seeing if I'll pick up litter.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 8:09
  • I used to be the "honest" person mentioned in this answer, but I eventually found out that most people don't like goody-goody intermeddlers who try to fix things that they weren't told to fix. It's one thing to test a janitor by leaving trash around, it's another thing to expect that such a test will be equally valid if used with an accountant or software developer. In a broad sense, the testing you are describing might be better used as a test for Autism-spectrum disorders or Autistic-like traits. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 16:15
  • @Dan The whole point of the test is that you don't know you are being tested. As for the "kind of company that employs tricks" like these, that would be, for example, the United States Special Operations Command.
    – Socrates
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 17:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .