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What systems theory has to do with socially desirable response behavior in aptitude diagnostics and how applicants can be assessed in a valid way

Aptitude Diagnostics

What systems theory has to do with socially desirable response behavior in aptitude diagnostics and how applicants can be assessed in a valid way

Faking in personality test = manipulation in everyday life?

Personality tests have been an integral part of personnel selection in most companies for years. The increase in digital assessments in particular reinforces the widespread criticism that personality tests are not valid because applicants deliberately give incorrect answers and “fake” their personality. The underlying concern is that manipulative response behavior on the part of individuals is reflected in everyday working life.

From a socio-analytical point of view, a new perspective emerges. Candidates in an application process try to behave in a way that they consider to be in conformity with the social system of the company. Answering a personality questionnaire is therefore just as much an application situation as is the case with a job interview or a work sample. In systems theory, it is assumed that behavior is system-dependent and can therefore differ depending on the environment. If someone adapts his or her own response behavior to the company that is advertising the job and is consistent in the interaction, this person could therefore be exactly the right person for the advertised job.

The predictive accuracy of system-compliant behavior without knowing the environment more precisely is also a valuable social skill that contributes significantly to career success in sales, purchasing, and all other functions with many interfaces to stakeholders. So from this perspective, faking in personality tests is only a bogus problem. This is also the conclusion of a broad study (Hogan, Barrett & Hogan, 2007).

Julia Kobert - S&P Consulting

Julia Kobert
Corporate Communications
+49 4102 6993 21


Established personality tests can be used validly, but at the same time they are not the only key to success. The quality of aptitude diagnostics begins with the definition of the right requirements for the person being sought. In addition, personality tests should always be accompanied by other methods, such as intelligence tests, structured interviews or work samples. On the one hand, to check assessments already collected, and on the other hand, to gather new impressions about the applicants.

The personnel consultants of S&P Consulting support you in creating requirement profiles that are specifically aligned with the development goals of your company and in professionalizing the procedures for personnel selection. In addition to personality tests, we use various methods to analyze the potential and expected performance of candidates, taking into account the relevant requirements, in order to obtain as accurate a picture of the candidates as possible. The classification and reflection of the results of the aptitude diagnostic procedures is an essential part of our consulting services.

Consulting for successful personnel recruitment and development





Reflect on your observation and evaluation patterns

Visualizing the typical observation errors helps to come to a valid assessment. Three widely studied and common observation errors are:

  • Primacy Effect
    The first impression influences the ongoing assessment of applicants (Anderson, 1965). Especially when the results of personality tests are available before the first meeting, it is important to reflect on the observed behavior with as little bias as possible in order to make a final accurate assessment of the perceived deviation.
  • Halo Effect
    The overall impression is influenced by a salient trait (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). A very good score on the intelligence test may cause other independent traits to be rated more positively without any logical connection existing. Of course, this effect exists just as much in the negative direction.
  • Similar-to-me bias
    The similarity between applicant and observer positively influences evaluation (Rand & Wexley, 1975). Similarities in places of study, hobbies, and even personality traits can lead to an artificial increase in the fit of the applicant to the job.

From a systems theory perspective, “faking” by applicants in personality tests is not an argument for dispensing with this proven measurement method. In order to find the right person for a vacant position, it is advisable to use suitable job profiles, several methods in the application process, and constant reflection on one’s own errors of observation, as well as on observation and evaluation patterns.

We would be happy to provide you with background information on our aptitude diagnostic procedures and system-theoretical aspects of personnel recruitment in a personal online dialog. Please feel free to make an appointment with our consultants

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