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When Job Candidates Lie In Personality Tests

  • Publish Date: Posted about 9 years ago
  • Author:by Caroline Macklin

“But what if people lie…..”is a question that we are frequently asked when outlining personality inventories as part of arecruitmentprocess. There is always a concern when undertaking a recruitment campaign that people may lie in personality tests, but particularly when using new or more complex tools.

“If a candidate knows that a Management role requires Leadership skill, what’s to stop them from embellishing their strength and preferences in this area?”

1. Indirect Questions

Questions asked in a personality inventory are not so straight forward as “Do you like working as part of a team?”  Often preference selection will force the candidate to select between several favourable behaviours or rank behaviours in order of likelihood or preference.  This means that the candidate must rely on their judgement and preferences, making it much more difficult to manipulate the eventual scoring.

2. Lie Scales / Social Desirability Measures

Checks and scales built into personality inventories act to ensure that those candidates who lie or exaggerate the truth are detected and highlighted to the Assessor as part of theAssessmentReport.  Valid and Reliable Personality Inventories based on scientific evidence will include measures of candidates’ patterns and consistency of responding, including any attempt to skew the report in a particular direction.

3. People lie at interview too

Unfortunately, human nature is such that in some circumstances some people will lie. This is also true of interviews. Over time and repeated testing, it has been concluded that psychometric testing, including personality inventories, are better predictors of job success than interviews. While there are many factors at play here (level of structure used at interview, interviewer skill, or potential bias) the honesty or “truthfulness” of the candidate is vital to the effectiveness of the interview and can often be very difficult to evaluate.

While there is never a guarantee of absolute honesty (even the traditional Lie Detector Test has been called into question), psychometrics and personality inventories can improve the quality of the process considerably.

In order to gain the most benefits from psychometrics and personality inventories you should:

  • Choose an appropriately qualified and reputable Assessor

  • Ensure a reliable and valid test or measure is used – avoid well packaged and often free online assessments which are without scientific merit

  • If possible, ask the candidate to complete the assessment onsite

  • Follow-up the assessment with a face-to-face interview, probing any areas of concern or particular strength in detail and asking for relevant examples

If you have any further questions on what to do if people lie in personality tests please do not hesitate to contact us about our assessment offering and solutions.

Caroline Ward - Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant
Caroline Macklin​
​Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant