Posts Tagged ‘Cheating on Psych Tests’

More Cheating on Psych Tests

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

There has been an interesting discussion lately on a Psychometrics Linked In Group. The discussion was begun by Prue Laurence, Director at Psylutions, a workplace psychology consultancy in Melbourne where they are currently conducting a survey about cheating in workplace psychometric tests and people’s attitudes to psych testing.

Cheating on psych tests is a subject that comes up a lot, and I have fairly recently written about it myself.

In general, I would say that there’s very little point in even attempting to cheat, not because I make a moral judgement, but because potential employees just don’t know what an employer might be looking for. There’s a common perception that every employer is looking for extravert personalities, and put simply, that’s just wrong. There’s also a perception that extraverts are somehow “better” than introverts and that’s just silly. (For an explanation, please read my previous post, link above).

But Prue’s call for subjects to do her survey has engendered a discussion that has begun to develop the idea of cheating in a much deeper way, and to consider the phenomenon of psych tests and the way they can be used and abused from a different perspective.

One of the commenters, a UK Director of a Human Resources and Business consultancy, related the story of a group of young graduates gathering together to complete online unsupervised ability tests for their friends. He says, “…There seems to be no shame in this (they see it) as a fair way of outwitting the tedious, repetitious and time-consuming automated selection processes so many businesses put in the way of bright graduates applying for jobs.”

I think this is really sad. Psychometric tests, or any other form of employee selection should never be used to get in the way of anyone applying for jobs, or getting them. All our staff selection processes, including psych tests, should be used to get the clearest picture possible of not only who will be the best person for the job, but also whether the job is the best fit for the applicant. It’s a two-way street, and all our selection processes should be applied well, carefully and humanely, in order to achieve the best decision possible, and the best outcome for everyone.

The idea of a conveyor belt, one-size-fits-all, psychometric testing (most especially ability testing!) also really concerns me. You would hope that ability tests would be carefully conducted, and the idea that we are becoming a society where we are so concerned with churning through processes for expedience, rather than doing things well and carefully, is frankly repugnant. If tests are conducted coldly and blithely, then can we be surprised that people might treat them blithely? Psych tests most certainly can be used for screening, but that doesn’t mean we should forget that candidates are people, or that we should do it cruelly, coldly, or cynically.

But another comment in the discussion is even more concerning. The Director of a Leadership and Human Resources and Development consultancy in the USA says, “Have you ever applied for a job online lately? … No feedback, no contact, no personal touch … No real opportunity to tell your story…”.

Further, he says that he has built and used tests for many years, but finds himself “…embarrassed by what passes for professional practice these days” And tellingly, he says, “ We say people are our most valuable resource but then treat them like cattle being led to the slaughter.”

I say it’s a call to arms! It doesn’t have to be this way, and shouldn’t be.

All of us who are involved in Human Resources, staff selection and development, recruiting, and test development and delivery need to be constantly aware that we are in the business of dealing with people’s lives. If we don’t treat people well and fairly, then we can’t expect them to treat our processes well and fairly.

You don’t need to cheat on psych tests. Lets make sure we deliver psych tests and our other processes so well, that we’re not cheating on candidates.

For all of us, our job and work life is one of the most important things we have in life. We need to keep remembering that.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.


Cheating on Psych Tests

Monday, February 7th, 2011


I’m getting a bit sick of hearing people talking about cheating on psych tests. All over the internet, from chat rooms to websites to blogs and legitimate news and journal articles, people are sharing stories about how they have “cleverly” worked out that they can cheat on personality tests.

Well “duh”! Most people these days have a pretty good general idea of pop psychology, and what it means in general to be an “extrovert” and an “introvert”. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think an extrovert is an outgoing person, and an introvert is a shy person who likes to keep to themselves?

Now, armed with this basic knowledge, you could go into a psych test, and pretend to be one or the other. I’m sure that would be pretty easy for most people. You wouldn’t need much imagination to pull it off, I wouldn’t have thought.

But here’s the thing: even if you cheated in a personality test, how would you know what sort person an employer was looking for? The assumption of most of these “clever cheaters” is that an extrovert is more desirable than an introvert. This is just simply wrong. A high extrovert score or a high introvert score on any psychometric test (or magazine quiz even!) is simply an indication of a certain personality tendency and style, and neither is “good” or “bad”.

Why assume, for instance, that an extreme introvert would be harder to work with than an extreme extrovert? Is it harder to work with someone who is shy and can’t make eye contact, than with someone who wants to dance on the desks and be the centre of attention and keeps wanting to talk to you all the time and won’t let you get on with your own work? Both extremities would be problematic in most circumstances, and one or the other would be most suitable in very rare and specific circumstances. A high extrovert might (but not necessarily) make a good stand-up comedian, for example, but a high introvert might be better as a light-house keeper.

It’s horses for courses, and if you were taking a personality test as part of a job application process, you wouldn’t know what kind of person was ideal for the role. Only the prospective employer would know what was needed and what they were looking for, just like an actor doesn’t know exactly what a film-director has in mind for a character. Just because it’s a sales job for instance, it doesn’t mean they’d be looking for an extrovert (think of travelling sales-people with long hours alone on the road), and do we necessarily want managers who are so caught up in their own confidence and ego that they don’t  pay attention to their team, or their organization?

This is only scratching the surface. I’ve only used obvious and extreme examples. There are myriad versions of personality styles made up of combinations of all sorts of qualities (you can be a high extrovert, for example, and yet be insecure, and one of the most popular people I know is very shy and not very talkative, and yet inspires great confidence in people).

So, I’d like to say to all those incredibly imaginative people who think they know how to cheat in psych tests:

1.No one kind of personality is “better” than another.

2.Don’t assume you know what a prospective employer is looking for.

3.If you want to do well in a Personality Test, do what all psychometric publishers tell you to do and be yourself.

4.Personality Tests are designed to give you and your employer more insight, so the more straightforward you are, the more you will know about yourself and how you fit into and operate as part of the group.

5.If you want to do well in an Ability Test brush up on your thinking skills, get plenty of sleep the night before, and be on time so you don’t get anxious.

You could cheat in an interview too, by pretending to be someone you are not, or you could falsify your resume. It’s all possible. But if any of this subterfuge managed to get you a job in the short-term, I’ll bet you wouldn’t keep it long, because YOU wouldn’t be the person they were looking for, and either you, or your new employer would get tired fairly quickly. So you could save yourself and everyone else time by being honest all along.

And as post-script, most psych tests have questions built-in to identify cheating, so really you are more likely to cheat yourself!

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.