Do you really have to fake it… to make it?

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Fake itShould organizations be concerned with candidates and applicants “faking” when taking psychometric and personality assessments?

An almost similar question:

Should hiring companies be concerned with candidates and applicants “faking” at face-to-face job interviews?

An old boss of mine once said: Fake it till you make it!

He argued that the following concepts of behaviour are overlapping and to a certain extent they are similar. What do you think?

  • Persuasion
  • Convincing
  • Inducing
  • Acting
  • Dating
  • Bluffing
  • Cheating
  • Cultural
  • Manipulating
  • Simulating
  • Selling
  • Counselling
  • Faking

“Fake it till you make it” is an English aphorism which suggests that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life and achieve the results they seek.

What is faking?

Faking, or you can use any of the words above, occurs in any interaction between people, because of course we wish to put our best self forward.

Think back to when you last had a job interview. Think back to when you had to influence your boss to get a project approved or perhaps a salary raise. You see?

Questions like what the context is, what is the purpose, what is the objective, will all matter.

When candidates purposefully distort their responses to personality-based items to make themselves look more favorable, it is often regarded as cheating. We say it’s a deceitful behavior because it is perceived as manipulative or purposeful “gaming” of the assessment.

Research suggests that most faking is due to what is called impression management. And it happens not only when doing a personality assessment but all the time in various degrees.

Few of us will admit to our weaknesses or faults – whether in a personality test or in a face-to-face job interview. Or being introduced to someone else.

My point is that faking is a negative word but being smart, intelligent, and convincing have a better connotation.

What is the major concern with faking?

The qeustionIf a candidate fakes a personality assessment, we are concerned that the results do not accurately describe the behavioural tendencies of the assessment-taker.

The biggest concern from organizations is the belief that faking is so pervasive that the majority of candidates’ results are invalid. In other words, personality assessments may not be an effective tool in the hiring process. But wait…

Should you not be concerned when meeting someone, or job interviewing a candidate, that the person is acting, playing, manipulating? Same same but different – comes to mind.

I say: Question mark? Now read the following.

Do most candidates fake on personality assessments?

The consensus within the industrial-organizational psychology community is that faking is typically not a wide-spread problem. In fact, a research by Journal of Applied Psychology reported that less than 4% of job candidates distorted their responses to an extreme degree.

In “real-world” hiring situations, most job candidates do not consciously manipulate their responses to personality assessments, which means that assessment tools serve their purpose as valid predictors of job performance.

Faking should not be considered overly problematic.

What does a global psychometric assessment firm think?

Predictive IndexThe PI Behavioral Assessment is a free-choice instrument in which there are no obvious “right” or “wrong” answers. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for people to accurately and consciously map an individual item on the assessment back to the underlying behavioural factor it was intended to measure.

The assessment uses 86 adjective words on a list that provides less clarity around which responses are considered more “desirable” as opposed to framing questions as full sentences in which the “right” answer is more obvious,

This makes the PI Behavioral Assessment almost impossible to manipulate. In addition, the PI Behavioral Assessment is periodically updated to remove adjectives that are clearly socially desirable or undesirable.

Read much more on this subject on this page from Predictive Index, read here.

Conclusion

Based on years of peer-reviewed academic research and our own experiences, there is no reason to believe that Candidate faking systematically impacts the utility and validity of the PI Behavioral Assessment in any substantial manner.

In fact, social desirability and impression management are likely to be of bigger concern during interviews than during completion of the psychometric assessments.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.