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5 Things about Applicant Faking in Assessment Tests That You Should Know

March 16, 2017


No one likes a liar, right? Dishonesty is not something that most people are comfortable with, because it implies that someone is trying to “pull one over on us” or “get away with something.” It follows, logically, that you wouldn’t want someone to “fake good” on pre-employment applications, their resumes, assessments, or in interviews. We want to know what we are going to get when we hire someone into the organization. We feel personally offended when someone turns out to be different than what they said they were (especially if we’re doing the hiring!).

With all of this being said, it might surprise you to know that applicant faking is not always as bad as you may think. Here are five reasons that this may be the case:

  1. You may not have the perfect work environment. That’s right; there is a possibility that not every day of work is going to go smoothly for your new employee. Someone that can’t “fake” being satisfied with the job might turn into a disgruntled employee that just can’t play nice. In the world of I/O psychology we call this impression management. If your work environment isn’t perfect you may want someone that can roll with the punches and put a smile on even in less than desirable circumstances.

  2. You may want someone that knows what you want. Research has indicated that applicants that are “Open to Ideas” are more likely to be able to “fake” what you’re looking for (Raymark & Tafero, 2009). As a personality variable, Openness to Ideas is used to describe individuals that are curious, intelligent and likely to enjoy doing activities that provide a lot of mental effort. They have an awareness of what it takes to be successful on the job, and this in itself may lend to performance gains.

  3. The faker might just be motivated to do a good job. Many of us have taken the SAT or the GRE. I don’t know about you, but I studied intensely for those exams. The applicant that spends time figuring out the “right” answers might just be more motivated to get the job, or to make a good impression. Whether you’re asking them to complete a skills test, a personality assessment or a simulation exercise, the candidate that has gone out of their way to learn “what works” is going to be more motivated to meet your expectations.

  4. They motivate you to build a better mouse trap.
    At Select International, we spend a lot of time researching applicant faking and trying to find ways to make sure that our assessments and exercises are less susceptible to faking. At the same time, applicants have to be more motivated, able to determine what the employer is looking for, and just generally more willing to wear a smile (even if they’re not feeling perky). They keep you on your toes, and vice versa!

  5. You can measure competencies in multiple ways.
    Perhaps you think you have a faker on your hands and you’re not quite sure what to do. Having a process that is designed to hit on critical competencies more than once (with a structured phone screen and interview process, for example) will increase the odds that you will find out the applicant's true ability to perform on important competencies. Even within an assessment, you can include multiple measurement methods (different types of items) to help get the best measure of a person’s “true” abilities. It might just be the case that you have the perfect candidate on your hands!

So the next time you’re wondering if an applicant is too good to be true, consider for a moment that maybe they are. But is that really so bad?

Another similar question to consider:  Are high assessment scores always better? Read the whitepaper below to find out:

assessment scores

Amber Thomas Amber Thomas was a Consultant at PSI. In her role, Amber provided custom solutions to a variety of industries. Her contributions included project oversight, day-to-day client support, and on-going consultation.