How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Accuracy and faking
There is a conflict between the recruiter who wants to be accurate and the applicant who may be faking. Accurate information is true and without color or falsehood. It may be affected by the informant, the context, underlying information or measurement effects.
Information from the candidate will be affected by their inference of the meaning of questions asked. Inference is a process that filters and distorts sense information via internal constructs such as schema and life narratives. If the meaning inferred is not exactly that which is intended, then the response cannot be accurate. Words are re-interpreted and extended with connotative meaning (Barthes, 1957). The implication for recruiters is that great care must be taken with language used in questions to avoid ambiguity and potential distortion in the inferential process.
In their desire to be selected, applicants may fake or bias responses, ranging from slight exaggeration to bare-faced lies. Recruiters can encourage applicants to be honest both by asking for honest replies and by warning of consequences of lying (Cascio, 1976).
There are known areas where faking is more likely, such as tenure and final salary. Simple facts may be followed up as appropriate with former employers to verify these.
Consistent faking is more difficult in multiple contexts. Multiple tests and multiple interviews on different days and with different people provides information that can provide a richer information source to determine variation in a candidate’s responses.
The informant may also be affected by their perception of job requirements and the culture of the target company. If they perceive a requirement for aggressive go-getting, then their responses may well be suitably biased. Recruiters may reduce this (or at least reduce variation in response between applicants) by providing accurate information about the job, the company and its culture.
Recruiters also need information from inside the company to build accurate job descriptions and design appropriate recruitment instruments. Similar jobs may be quite different in different contexts (Goldstein et al, 1993) and hence need careful analysis. Managers may exaggerate the skills needed, listing a perfect prototype whilst losing the key attributes in the detail, or may bias detail to subtly affect influence policy or manage internal impressions. When gathering information from groups, social interactional effects may further bias information (eg. Deutch and Gerard, 1955). Recruiters may reduce internal bias by using such methods as critical incident analysis and task (rather than KSA) data (Morgenson and Campion, 1997).
Accuracy may also be a problem where job needs are constantly changing. What is accurate at the time of collection of data may not be true when it is used to select candidates. The time component of accuracy must thus also be considered and perhaps more general information sought where detail is subject to change.
Information may also be gathered from references, which provides additional information to questionnaires and interviews. There is inherent bias in this process, as the referees are chosen by the applicants. Referees, as with applicants and internal sources are subject to bias and recruiters need to take equal care in the questions they ask and the inferences they make from the information provided.
Finally, but actually first, recruiters can ensure that everyone in the recruiting cycle is well educated and knowledgeable about the real issues. Thus the use of qualified test developers, training of interviewers and coaching of managers can go a long way to ensure that recruitment is a professionally run process and that recruited candidates are the best possible people for the specific jobs and for the longer-term health of the overall organization.
Barthes R. (1957). Mythologies, Paris: Editions du Seui
Cascio, W.F. (1976). “Turnover, biographical data and fair employment practice.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 61, pp 575-80
Deutch, M. and Gerard, H.B. (1955). “A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, pp 629-36
Goldstein, I.L., Zedeck, S. and Schneider, B. (1993). “An exploration of the job analysis continuity process” in Schmitt, N. and Borman, W.C. (eds) Personnel Selection in Organizations, San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 3-34
Morgenson, F.P. and Campion, M.A. (1997). “Social and cognitive sources of personal inaccuracy in job analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 5, pp. 627-55