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Pre-Employment Tests, Interview Skills & Hiring

By Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
Jun 24, 2011, 14:44

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Fortunately, certain pre-employment personality tests help you avoid hiring liars.  By liars, I mean applicants who try to appear ‘better or different’ than they truly are.  Sure, every applicant seeks to make a good impression.  But applicants who go out of their way to deceive you can cause expensive problems – if you hire them. 


If you hire a liar or deceiver, that person may (A) not admit their weaknesses or deficiencies in their work or (B) not follow your instructions and directives.  Such problems

-  harm productivity

-  increase costs

-  decrease profits

-  create a lousy work environment


So, beware:  Liars on your payroll can harm your company’s financial success – and your success as a manager.




In my book, “HIRE THE BEST – & AVOID THE REST,” I wrote:  “Whatever behavior you see from an applicant during your screening process is likely the very best behavior you ever will see from that person!” 


Examples:  If an applicant acts mannerly during your screening process, the person will act that mannerly or worse – if you hire the person.  Or, if an applicant acts unmannerly during your screening process, you can expect that person to act unmannerly or even worse – if you hire that person. 


Similarly, in my research to create two pre-employment tests I discovered that applicants who try to lie on my test – that is, answer dishonestly or inaccurately about himself – also are likely to

A.  Not follow instructions or directives their boss gives them

B.  Not tell their boss difficulties they encounter on-the-job – which often results in costly problems





I incorporated a useful, logical, scientific method to make lie/dishonesty scales in two pre-employment tests I created.  Both are personality tests used for hiring assessments.  Specifically, in both pre-employment tests, I made an “Accuracy” or Honesty scale.  Those scales reveal if an applicant is trying to “fool” the test, i.e., answer dishonestly/inaccurately about himself. 


How do these pre-employment personality tests find out if an applicant is trying to answer dishonestly or “inaccurately” about himself?  I use multiple questions – interspersed throughout the tests – that ask truism questions.  A truism is a small weakness or difficulty 100% of humans have.  My Accuracy/Honesty questions see if the applicant will admit those truisms or small weaknesses.  Applicants also are warned that these personality tests will find out if they try to answer untruthfully. 


I will not reveal the specific truism questions used on the personality tests.  But, here is an example of a truism question:  Did you ever tell a lie?  Of course, everyone has told lies.  (The only exception are angels – but it is doubtful angels apply for jobs at your company!)  An honest applicant will answer, “Yes.”  But a possibly dishonest applicant trying to “fool” the test – i.e., give answers that inaccurately portray him as ‘better or different’ than he really is – will answer, “No” to such a question. 





Fact = I frequently receive phone calls from managers who tell me they used a pre-employment test (but not tests I created), hired someone, and later observed the person acted vastly differently than their test predicted.  So, I ask them how that test tried – unsuccessfully – to “catch” liars who try to fool that test.”  I get two typical answers.  First, that so-called test did not have any section that aimed to “catch” liars.  So, the manager was ignorant that a pre-employment personality test must “catch” liars.


Or, second, those so-called tests asked basically the same question a number of ways – and then saw if applicant consistently answered the same way each time.  However, this is a dumb, illogical and unscientific way to try to “catch” a liar.  Reason:  A liar easily can consistently lie.  For example, imagine answering “Yes” to these questions:  (a)  Is your name Bill Gates?,  (b) Are you founder of the world’s biggest software company?, and (c) Are you one of the world’s wealthiest people?  Those three questions are the same question asked three different ways.  Such ‘tests’ would infer that the consistent answers ‘prove’ the applicant was truthful.  But the consistent answers would not correlate with honesty. 


Lesson for you = If anyone says a pre-employment personality test uncovers lying job applicants by seeing if applicants answer similar questions the same way, you ought to (A) laugh at that dumb, illogical, unscientific claim, (B) not use that pre-employment test. 




When you give an applicant a pre-hire personality test, make sure the test will “catch” applicants who try to lie or “fool” the test by giving answers to make himself seem ‘better or different’ than he truly is. 


If you hire an applicant who lies on a pre-employment personality test, you may need to deal with two expensive problems.  That lying person may

1.  not follow directives or instructions you tell them to use to do their work

2.  not tell you when they have problems doing their work

3.  create a lousy work environment for other employees, because of “1” and “2”


When managers call to tell me they hired an applicant that my pre-employment personality tests warned them was a liar, they report those three problems.  I resist saying, “You should have listened to my test’s results and my advice.”  Instead, I try to comfort the manager by saying, “Well, you learn from experience.”  Then, the manager sighs – and then replies, “Well, Dr. Mercer, that was a very expensive experience!  I should have listened to your test and to your advice.” 


Remember = If you want to hire hard-working, productive, low-turnover employees, make sure pre-employment personality tests you use “catch” lying, deceptive applicants.  Fortunately, a scientific, logical method is used in certain pre-employment tests to “catch” those liars.


COPYRIGHT 2011 Mercer Systems, Inc.


Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is a pre-employment testing expert, industrial psychologist, and book author. 

Three pre-employment tests Dr. Mercer created are used by many companies.  The tests help them hire honest, hard-working, productive employees.  Dr. Mercer wrote 6 books, including “Hire the Best – & Avoid the Rest(tm).”  You can get more information at his website

or by phoning him at 847-382-0690. 

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