Can information on the IPIP website be used to cheat on job selection tests?

Personality inventories are sometimes used by employers to help them assess whether an applicant possesses personality traits associated with good job performance and satisfaction. The personality traits associated with job performance and satisfaction differ from job to job, so a personality inventory can help determine whether an applicant is a good match for a particular job.

Some websites suggest that job applicants can enhance their chances of being hired by "cheating" on the personality portion of the selection process (by providing responses they think are more likely to get them hired instead of describing themselves normally). These website are providing very bad advice. Trying to "finesse" a personality inventory to hired is a terrible idea for several reasons.

  1. First of all, if you were somehow able to get hired by painting a favorable--but false--picture of yourself, you would be likely to find yourself unhappy and unproductive in that job because you lack the personality traits associated with productivity and satisfaction. Cheating is therefore personally VERY counter-productive. Don't go there.

  2. Second, most personality inventories used for personnel selection include items specifically devised to catch respondents who are responding abnormally (exaggerating, claiming traits they are unlikely to possess, providing unusual responses, and so forth). Responding to these items creates a red flag that can be used to immediately disqualify an applicant.

  3. Third, trying to figure out how traits are indicated by responses to items can be more difficult than you think. Although the IPIP website provides scoring keys to show how items can be used to measure particular constructs, similar items on commercial inventories could be scored in entirely different ways. Also, IPIP items were written to be as clear as possible, while commercial inventories often contain a number of items that are more subtle.

  4. Fourth, even if you could figure out what trait might be measured by a set of items, this does not tell you which traits are associated with performance and satisfaction within a particular job. Aside from a few obvious and well-know relationships between personality and career success (e.g., sociable salespeople are more likely to be successful than shy salespeople), research has shown that the links between scores on personality inventories and career success are complex and not obvious to the general public.

  5. Finally, there is no evidence whatsoever that using the IPIP website to learn how to take a particular test will in any way enhance the likelihood that one will be selected for a job. Trying to do so is a waste of your valuable time.

  6. So, if you want use personality assessment to increase your chances of being hired for a job that you will love and excel at, your best bet is to make an appointment with a career counselor who will help you determine which jobs are the most compatible with your personality.

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