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
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