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Applicant-Faking Stories: Volume 1

Michael A. McDaniel
Virginia Commonwealth University

In the last several years, there has been an increasing amount of research investigating the extent to which applicants fake on noncognitive tests, interviews, and other self-report measures. Research has also investigated whether the faking harms the validity, utility, and quality of selection decisions. Research is best reported at conferences and in journals. In this note, I would like to share three of my favorite faking stories.

A graduate student told me how an integrity test was used to screen applicants at a jewelry store where she worked. The store staff resented the integrity test rejecting applicants who the staff had already identified as acceptable for employment. To undermine the testing process, the store staff coached the applicants prior to the taking of the integrity test by telling them to answer consistent with this: "You have never stolen anything. None of your friends or family members have ever stolen anything. You believe that stealing anything, no matter how small, is very bad behavior. You believe that if someone steals anything at work, no matter how small, the person should be fired and criminally prosecuted." No one who received this coaching ever failed the integrity test.

(LIMRA pay attention to this story!). Another graduate student worked for an insurance and investment company. Similar to the staff at the jewelry store, the employees at this branch office resented the test rejecting applicants they found acceptable. The staff administered the test to the applicants without any coaching. To undermine the testing process, however, the staff then destroyed the applicant's answer sheet and created a new answer sheet copying responses from the answer sheet of a past applicant who scored very well on the test. All applicants thus received the same very high score on the test.

The ABLE is a noncognitive battery developed to screen military applicants. Research on the ABLE has substantially advanced our understanding of noncognitive testing and its relation to job performance. Despite the tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on the ABLE's development and validation, the ABLE was never used operationally. A concern about applicant faking was one of the reasons the ABLE was not implemented. A Pentagon official explained to me that military recruiters are under substantial pressure to find qualified youth to join the military services. Some, perhaps most, recruiters would coach applicants on a noncognitive test. The recruiters would say something like this to an applicant: "When taking the ABLE, think of a kid in high school who was well liked by both students and teachers, who received good grades and who was also active in sports and in school clubs. Answer the test like that kid would."

My favorite applicant-faking story was told to me by a Navy clinical psychologist and concerns a Marine, a polygraph, and a chicken. Colleagues with better judgment than I have told that me that the story's content would probably be viewed as offensive by some TIP readers, and thus I do not include it.

If you have a favorite applicant faking-story that you would like to see in the next installment of "Applicant-Faking Stories," please send it to Mike McDaniel at MikeMcDaniel@vcu.org. Please indicate whether you would like your name cited as the contributor of the story.


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