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Do Candidates Ever Fake Pre-Employment Tests?

Kristen Harcourt Sep 22, 2014 1:12:00 PM

Faking_Pre-employment_testA question I get asked a lot is, do candidates ever "fake" their responses on an assessment like McQuaig, and how successful are they if they do?

The recruitment process is, from the perspective of the candidate, a sales process. We know some embellish their resumes, their success stories in interviews and they only volunteer references who will provide positive information. So, it seems natural that they’d also try to embellish their responses in a pre-employment assessment.

The question is can they do it?

Faking pre-employment tests like McQuaig is more difficult than you might think for a number of reasons:

Ipsative vs. Normative

Assessments like McQuaig are what’s called Ipsative or "forced choice" assessments. Survey takers are given four words or phrases to rank as being most-to-least like them in a particular situation. Some assessments, called Normative assessments, present a phrase such as "How competitive are you?" and ask candidates to rate themselves on a high-to-low scale, typically 1-5.

A large scale study published in the International Journal of Organizational Analysis concluded ipsative assessments were "more effective in guarding against faking than more commonly used normative measures."

Contradictory or Inconsistent Answers

The format of an assessment like McQuaig makes is very difficult for test takers to keep track of how they have answered previous questions. If someone is trying to fake a test, most likely they’ll be trying to give you the answer they think you want, while trying to remember how they have answered similar questions. Tests are designed to catch this behavior. If someone’s responses are contradictory or inconsistent the report highlights this for you. In a case like this, we suggest further probing using the questions provided in the report to uncover what’s really going on.

Real vs. Situational

The McQuaig System presents results in two ways: how the person really is (Real) and how they are behaving in their current role (Situational). A significant difference between the Real and Situational results usually occurs when an individual is currently behaving in a way that is inconsistent with their natural behavior patterns. We know that this is caused when they answer the questions in the first part of the survey differently from the way they answer the questions in the second part. In the vast majority of cases, these changes are there because the individual has to adapt their natural behavior to the differing demands of the job - and our research backs that up - but attempting to skew results cannot be ruled out in this situation. In either case, we recommend that you probe further using the questions provided in the reports.

Time Taken to Complete an Assessment

When you receive results, you’re also provided with how long it took to complete the assessment, and how many attempts were made. Typically a McQuaig test takes 15-20 minutes. Psychologists assert that the faster an assessment is completed (within reason) the more accurate the results. Therefore, if someone took a long time, or many attempts to complete the survey, be sure to ask why this occurred.

Even if someone did manage to beat the odds and fake their responses unnoticed, there remains the problem that they don’t know what you’re looking for. The test reveals a person’s behavioral profile. It’s neither good nor bad on its own. It’s a matter of how that profile fits with what you’ve determined is the profile of the ideal candidate, which you can create using another part of the McQuaig System, that matters.

Remember, any assessment is just one tool in your toolbox

The McQuaig System, or any assessment tool, should only be considered one piece of the puzzle during the hiring process. Using McQuaig, along with behavioral interviewing, work samples, and reference checks will ensure that you evaluate your candidate as thoroughly as possible, and catch any potential attempt to fake along the way.

Proper implementation and employing best practices when using The McQuaig System, or another assessment tool, will reduce the likelihood of faking and further enhance the objectivity of your selection process, ensuring you hire the right candidate.

If you’re curious about the scientific validity of The McQuaig System, you can find out more here.

 

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Topics: Recruitment, Job Search

Kristen Harcourt

Written by Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a highly trusted, creative and collaborative advisor who is passionate about people. She really enjoys helping companies make the right people decisions to achieve long term productivity.