Faking is the intentional distortion of personality test results in order to look better on the assessment than they are in reality.  When candidate’s fake this results in the elevation of scales that are desirable for a role and a reduction in scores on undesirable trait scales.

There has been debate by researchers on the best ways to handle those who fake personality assessments.  There are several preventative methods used and recommended by research these are:Warnings can reduce faking

  • Warnings – it has been shown that warning candidates about fake scales and that there are consequences of faking can reduce faking
  • Covert items – it has been shown less transparent items can reduce the amount of faking as it is less easy for candidates to identify the more desirable option
  • Empirical keying – this method analyses what an item suggested about an individual, with the way observers described them, and measurable performance data about them to validate the item or scale, as such the surface item content is less important
  • Forced choice questions – this method asks candidates to rate which of several statements is more or less like them, and has been shown to be less easy to fake.  However, ipsative measures that use this forced choice format have serious drawbacks including not being able to fairly compare between candidates results read more….

Some assessments use social desirability scales to detect faking, however these have the potential downside that Are faked results really accurate?some researchers believe answering in a socially desirable manner is a personality trait and therefore not necessarily indicative of faking.  In addition, many of these scales have more than one possible interpretation in addition to faking.  Tools such as the California Psychological Inventory have more definitive faking scales which when elevated flag the results as faked and the test maker recommends any interpretation be done with a high degree of caution as the profile may not be valid.

Once faking has been identified there are several options for practitioners in how to handle these results:

  • Choose not to consider applicants who fake further
  • Verified applicant fit to the role by other sources of information
  • Interpret the results as mostly true with a cautionary note about the possibility that the results may be faked and therefore less validWe use several strategies to combat faking
  • Correct test scores for faking, however research has shown corrections may impact on the validity of results

At Niche Consulting we combat faking in several ways.  Firstly, we warn all candidates sitting personality assessments that there are faking scales and there are consequences if faking is detected.  We recommend the use of the California Psychological Inventory as it is less susceptible to faking as it uses covert items and empirical keying methodology in its construction. 

If faking is identified then we retest those individuals who fake with instructions to be more candid in their responding.  For most individuals who resit their second response is significantly different to their first and this gives a result that can be used as a true picture of the individual’s preferences. 

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