One of the biggest concerns I hear from HR professionals regarding selection assessments is that the right answer is “obvious” and candidates can “game” the assessment. Here are five key recommendations to note regarding the concern of applicants potentially engaging in impression management, or faking, when completing assessments.
1) Use a selection process that includes multiple steps
We realize that candidates are inherently motivated to respond in a positive way to items in selection assessments, and may deliberately distort their responses in an attempt to “game” the system. In addition, we recognize that there is no perfect measure to identify 100% of these individuals who should be screened out. Keeping this in mind, at a system level, it’s important to use a selection process that includes multiple hurdles (e.g., pre-screen questions, assessments, interviews) to identify those undesirable candidates who should be screened out.
2) Ensure your assessment employs multiple modes of measurement
At the assessment level, it’s important to use multiple methodologies to ascertain a candidate’s level of a particular competency or attribute. Using assessments that incorporate different types of items and sections to get the most robust measurement of the important competencies will help combat the potential for faking.
3) Be sure you’re seeing a range of responses to all (even the more “transparent”) items
In spite of the fact that some responses to items may seem obvious, a good assessment will still find considerable variance in responses. As a hiring manager or HR professional, you may look at certain items and think that all candidates would respond a certain way, as the “correct” answer appears obvious to you. You are viewing these items from a different perspective than your candidate pool, and there may, in fact, be variance in the way that actual candidates respond to those items.
That may be important criteria to factor in. You should monitor your selection system as you process candidates to ensure that you are seeing a range of responses, as items or scales for which there is no variance do not provide value and should either be tweaked or removed from the process.
4) The assessment should significantly predict relevant outcomes
Perhaps more important than seeing variance in candidate responses to “transparent” items, it’s crucial to see that the assessment is reliable and significantly predicts organizationally relevant outcomes. How valuable is an assessment that doesn’t actually predict the things we care about – employee performance, sales volume, customer service ratings, etc.?
5) Regular monitoring, continuous improvement
It’s important to monitor the reliability and validity of selection assessments and to keep abreast of research in the area. In the spirit of continuous improvement, we always monitor relevant statistics on our assessments. We also routinely conduct research into the potential of applicant faking, and the effects of such faking on the results of the assessment process, along with the means to best counteract such effects. We incorporate best practices in measurement to reduce the impact of faking and ensure reliable and predictive assessments.
Assessments can be one of the most valid and reliable predictors of employee performance. Be sure to keep in mind the recommendations above to maximize the value of these useful tools … and keep your eyes on your own paper!