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



Views: 331

Comment by Charles van Heerden on August 17, 2011 at 22:10

Hi Lynette,

There does seem to be an unhealthy quest to beat the test. Perhaps part of it is availability of material on the web, or perhaps the way we administer these tests.

I am certainly concerned that so few people are getting any good feedback after an assessment.

Authenticity is important, by being yourself, regardless of how a test may describe you.

However, in tough times, we probably should expect candidates going to extremes to position themselves in the best way.



Comment by Lynette Jensen on August 18, 2011 at 9:07
Thank you for the comment Charles. Like you, I am concerned about the feedback some people are given. everyone is entitled by australian law to receive feedback on psych tests if they ask for it, and it is important that that feedback is meaningful.

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