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Job applicants likely to fake answers on personality tests
A new study by a team of researchers led by CU-Boulder management professor Joe Rosse finds that many job applicants can and do lie on personality tests to get jobs they arent qualified for.

According to the study, prospective employees fake their answers in order to make themselves look better in the eyes of the prospective employer.
The study, titled “The Impact of Response Distortion On Pre-Employment Personality Testing and Hiring Decisions,” has just been accepted by the Journal of Applied Psychology. Its authors – including Rosse, Mary D. Stecher of the University of Northern Colorado, Janice L. Miller of Norwest Bank, and Robert A. Levin of the Center for Human Function & Work – found that most applicants distort their answers to some degree, and a smaller number exhibit extreme levels of “response distortion,” or faking.

Rosse said many items on personality tests are transparent and that its often relatively easy to guess which response is “right.”
“Job applicants usually have substantial motive to make themselves look as attractive as possible. And applicants generally have ample opportunity to get away with faking because there is no objective way to verify a persons answers,” Rosse said.

The Boulder researchers compared responses from job applicants with those from current employees on tests designed to measure personality and the potential for response distortion. Compared to the current employees, who had no particular motive to fake their answers, job applicants had more favorable scores on most personality dimensions and substantially higher scores on the response distortion scale.

Personality testing has recently become more popular as a way of assessing job applicants “behavioral” qualifications. Organizations are more dynamic than before, and they need employees who have many skills so that they can adapt to different jobs. Thus, personality traits are important.

“Take a high-tech firm for example,” Rosse said. “You need to know if your applicant works well with other people, adapts easily, and is flexible. A personality test can tell you these things.”

How can personality tests help employers? Questions about an employees emotional stability and agreeableness help employers determine how well an applicant works with other people, Rosse said.

Questions that explore an applicants level of conscientiousness help employers discover how well applicants pay attention to detail.
Rosse said the results of this study suggest that employers need to use tests that are designed to detect faking and that they need to know how to use the results.

He also said managers who hire someone who would lie on a personality test need to be wary.
“Its a risk to assume they wont engage in other examples of stretching the truth if they did so in order to get the job,” Rosse said.
Does faking have any impact on who actually gets the job? It depends on the percentage of applicants who fake their answers and how extreme their responses are.


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Job Applicants And Personality Tests. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from