Do job application personality tests really work?

personality testYou wouldn't necessarily think that you could cheat at a personality test, but it seems the ones that many retailers administer to make hiring decisions for hourly workers are spawning a mini-industry of cheating.

The Wall Street Journalreports (subscription required) that Websites have sprung up devoted to coaching all those would-be CVS Best Buy-salespeople on how answer questions to achieve a "green' score that will lead to a job offer. Since the tests can generally be taken online at home, there's essentially nothing to stop people from cheating. So if you're a sociopathic maniac looking for a job, why not hire your prom queen friend to answer the questions so you can get hired?

The company that makes the tests insists that cheating isn't a big problem, but even if it is, I think the tests themselves present a bigger problem. Someone posted a test that Borders has used on their blog. Here are some sample statements, and applicants are asked to respond with strongly disagree/strongly agree/disagree/strongly disagree:
  • You have confidence in yourself
  • You have always had good behavior in school or work
  • You don't work too hard because it doesn't pay off anyway
  • You are somewhat of a thrill-seeker
What working at a bookstore has to do with being a thrill-seeker I can't possibly imagine. But if you're trying to get a job in retail, aren't the answers you should give fairly obvious? Sales requires confidence and who would want to hire someone with a history of bad behavior? And every employer wants hard workers. With most of the questions on these tests, it's pretty easy to figure out which answer is the "right" one.

The companies that administer these tests claim that they cut down on employee turnover. . . whatever.
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