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Can you fake a psychological evaluation?

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Are psych tests worth doing & can people fake them?

Another outstanding week for the SACS research program.

Over the weekend we had the joyous news that an article lead authored by Dr Jeromy Anglim from Deakin University and referred below was accepted for publication by the European Journal of Personality.

The European Journal of personality is arguably the most prestigious scientific journal in the world focused exclusively on personality research, so this was a great team effort from everybody involved, but especially from Jeromy for his clear-sighted captaincy of the project and masterful lead authorship.

The study used SACS data in which we had people who had completed exactly the same psych tests under two different conditions:

  1. A research or non-applicant setting, where people completed the psych tests with no consequences, simply to help SACS out in a research project.
  2. The same people completed the same psych tests when they were applying for jobs. This occurred in the normal course of people completing psych tests on the SACS Psychological Assessment Portal as part of a job application for any of our 900 odd clients.

This provided a uniquely powerful database to compare the results of people in these two settings.

The purpose of the study was to try to learn more about whether and how people fake their answers to psychological assessments.

The study has not yet been published, so I will go into more detail later when it hits the press, but here are a couple of key findings.

  1. People’s answers to psych tests are definitely different when they are applying for a job. Now we know exactly how different and we intend to use this information to further enhance the accuracy of our psychological assessment tools.
  2. These answers may be different because people are consciously or unconsciously “faking”, but they also may be different because of the “mindset” that people bring to the job application task. For instance, if a person is filling in a psych test for purely research purposes they may be thinking in terms of their general life as they answer these questions. If you are applying for a job, however, you are likely to be thinking in a purely work context when you answer the questions. This may partially account for the differences in answers.
  3. Whatever is the cause of these differences, none of this changes the decades old finding that psychological assessment is the most accurate of the recruitment methods available. Let’s face it, people fake everything in applying for jobs. How certain are you that what people put in their CVs is absolutely truthful? Are you sure that every interview answer is totally frank and open? Are you confident that that referee you spoke to yesterday told you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? At least as a result of this study we know exactly how much psychological assessment results are distorted by context.

Download the research publication

Click the button to download a copy of the "Comparing Job Applicants to Non-Applicants Using an Item-Level Bifactor Model on the HEXACO Personality Inventory" research publication and understand the value of the HEXACO Personality Inventory for job applicants.

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Anglim, J, Morse, G, De Vries, R; MacCann, C, & Marty, A (2017). Comparing Job Applicants to Non-Applicants Using an Item-Level Bifactor Model on the HEXACO Personality Inventory. European Journal of Personality.

Learn more about psychometric testing.


Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting

Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.

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