Personality Tests: Can You Cheat?

Personality tests are often part of the job application process. Aside from assessing if you have the right education and experience, employers use personality tests to know what kind of person you are. Are you systematic or a scatterbrain? Do you shy away from people or do you welcome the limelight? Can you be assertive when the situation calls for it, or do you fold like a stack of cards in the face of opposition?

Of course you want to put your best foot forward, which is why it pays to take such tests seriously. But to what extent? Should you go as far as cheating? Moreover, is it even possible to cheat in these tests?

Can you cheat on personality tests?

First off, is cheating possible? The straight answer is yes.

HR practitioners would probably shoot me on the spot for revealing a trade secret, but common sense would tell you that cheating on these tests is a walk in the park. If you pay attention to the questions, you’d realize there’s a way of answering that would put you in the best light, when answering personality tests.

Consider a question asking what you typically do when faced with a disagreeing Joe. Your options are (a) keep your opinion to yourself, (b) respectfully but firmly share the reasons why you disagree, and (c) walk away in an angry huff. Obviously, option (a) makes you seem like you lack courage to defend your opinions. Option (c), on the other hand, makes you look like you lack emotional intelligence. The best answer is (b) as it’s a balance between two extremes.

It’s worth noting though that personality tests do have built-in mechanisms to measure your tendency to fake a response, lie, or inflate your good points.  Will not discuss them here, but yes, the better-designed tests are more cheat-proof.  More so, high quality personality tests don’t always phrase questions in a direct way. You may think a question is measuring a particular trait, but in reality, it’s measuring a different aspect of your personality. Trained HR practitioners also triangulate results: what comes out of your personality test has to be verified by interview, background check.

Should you cheat on personality tests?

A more important question, perhaps, is “should you cheat?” The answer is as straight as in the first question: no, you shouldn’t. You can probably get away with cheating, may even get a job because of it, but the bad outweighs the good.

For starters, personality tests are measures of job fit. By definition, there’s no passing or failing a personality test, as there is no right or wrong personality — you are who you are. But some personalities are better suited to some jobs than others. A marketer is expected to be extroverted, an IT specialist need to have the patience of a saint. Faking a test may lead you to getting a job you’ll eventually come to hate, as your personality makes you better suited to doing something else.

But more so, getting caught would bring you the exact opposite of what you’re hoping for! Instead of creating a great impression, cheating tells a potential employer that you either have an unrealistic view of your capabilities or you’re a person with no integrity. Contrary to what many job-hunting books would tell you, employers are more impressed with people who come across as genuine than those who mouth (or in this case write) canned responses. Be yourself; for sure you have enough good points that would sell you without having to embellish details.

Lastly, results of personality tests tell HR what your training needs are. If you lie, you might miss the opportunity to be molded into a better performer. Worse, you’re likely to disappoint those who hire you as it will become soon apparent you oversold yourself.  Humility is a hard pill to swallow for some, but at the end of the day, it is the personality trait that would get you far.

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