3 min read

Can Candidates Cheat?

Guy Thornton August 01, 2019

Psychometric tests offer a standardised way to measure a potential hire’s mental capabilities. These are scientifically constructed tests with definite right and wrong answers, similar in format to an IQ test. These tests assess a combination of a person’s raw intelligence and learning ability.

It is widely agreed that these tests are an effective pre-hiring assessment tool and are trusted on a global scale to accurately predict future performance of a potential hire. Despite this popular belief there have been a couple of cases where the integrity of the psychometric test has been called into question. For example, the shortcoming of Minister - turned Bank Chairman, Paul Flowers. He excelled in the numerical, verbal and personality tests Co-Op bank put in front of him before he was hired but was forced to step down during a subsequent drug and sexual misconduct scandal with severe media backlash against his employers. Flowers’ failings inadvertently raised the questions - How could his test results have been so positive? And consequently; Could he have cheated on his tests? Honestly, this is wholly possible.

A lot of pre-screening Psychometric Tests are sent to prospective candidates online. With this comes the inevitable risk that the intended recipient of the test might not actually be the one answering the questions. It isn’t uncommon for people to ask for help, or indeed, have someone else sit the whole test for them. This cheat tactic is far from foolproof. Anyone with sense can easily recognise the level of competency of another person through conversation. So, if a high scoring candidate doesn’t impress at interview he will quickly be identified as an imposter.

Similarly, there is a risk that candidates might just guess the answer on questions, they are multiple choice after-all. There is an argument to say that this isn’t necessarily cheating, however, a guess, even an educated one, could distort a candidate’s true psychometric results. Again, if a candidate has guessed his way to success at testing stage, he will surely fall short at interview.

The important thing to remember with psychometric tests is that they should not ever be used as a substitute for regular interview practices. Meeting someone in person is, by far, a more valuable exercise than blindly firing out tests and hiring the candidate with the best score. However, when used correctly, Psychometric tests are a very useful filtration and assessment tool.

It has been proven that these test results can help predict how effectively a candidate will adapt to their new role and can often reveal information about a candidate that a telephonic or face to face interview may not reveal. Assuming, of course, that these tests are not being used in isolation, but instead in combination with standard interview practices, such as telephonic of face to face interviews, they can be applied very effectively are a trusted rule of thumb for pre-hire assessments. Psychometric tests are only as reliable as the people who take them - and this is something that can be easily determined in person.

Guy Thornton August 01, 2019

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