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  • Writer's picturePatrick Littorin

Who answered the personality test – really!?

In recent years, the use of tests has exploded. In the past, you met the candidate at the end of a recruitment process. Nowadays, digital test links are often sent to all applying candidates before the company has even spoken to any of them. But how do you know that it is the right person who answered the test?

Most likely, most candidates are not trying to cheat. But nobody knows today whether it is a big problem, neither among test constructors nor suppliers. In the past - in the days when you had to send in certified work grades and certificates from previous jobs and educations, it was more difficult to cheat. The final candidates were met personally, and their background of experience was reviewed. Then you handed over a test form which the candidate filled in, while the consultant sat in the next room. But now it is enough to post your profile on LinkedIn when looking for a job. And here many whitewash their background of experience.

The same is true with tests. For a long time, test designers assumed that "everyone" answered honestly. In the early 1990s, I was an editor at the “Affärsvärlden Group”, a Swedish Business Magazine, and was scolded by certain test providers when I questioned this. "It goes without saying that as a candidate you answer honestly!"

Perhaps the naive attitude was due to the fact that all test development took place within the academic world. In plain language, it meant that teachers had the students fill out a form for the course to be approved. Therefore, it didn't matter how you answered, the course was still passed.

Now that test use has increased so dramatically, the situation is different. Especially when you as a candidate are looking for a job - which you also want. Then there will be a sort of struggle between the candidate who wants the job and the test designer who will get at those who cheat and don't answer honestly. But at least there are some ways:

  • Having a control scale for "whitewashing", that is to measure - and correct - if the candidate has chosen to try to present himself in a better way than he really is. Roughly speaking, you can say that it is a "lie scale". If you don't try to get at this, the one who lies best will get the job.

  • Measure how long it takes the candidate to answer a question. In the best case, you might then get an indication of whether you got help answering the respective question. Several suppliers do it this way. But that will be a rather obtuse indication. Maybe the candidate was interrupted, the phone rang just then, etc.

  • At the same time, there are even bigger problems. How do you know that it is really the candidate who took the test? Of the well over 15,000 people tested by Psykometrika, we have come across a couple of cases where we strongly questioned whether the candidate is really the one who also completed the test. In one case, for example, the candidate claimed that she was unable to complete the performance tests because her internet connection was interrupted. But just in time for the weekend, it suddenly happened! By then her husband had come home from abroad and they probably did some kind of group work. This became clear when we also took references. As one of the referrers said: "no, she is probably normally gifted. But her husband is really smart.”


  • In another case, the test result was quite normal, and the candidate got the job. But it didn't work, and she had to quit. When we discussed with the customer what had gone wrong, we could see that her spelling and free text exercises were formulated in perfect Swedish. At the same time, her CV was full of bad Swedish, with both aiming and spelling mistakes, etc. Together with the customer, we were able to agree together that it was probably not the right person to answer the test.

  • One of our customers installed a computer in the head office when it was questioned whether it was always the right person who completed the test. There, the personnel manager came across one of the candidates who, during the test itself, used his mobile phone to Google the correct solution. He didn't get the job either.

These are just a few challenges the testing industry faces.If this is not taken seriously, there is a risk that the entire industry will once again fall into disrepute, as it did in the 1980s. Maybe you who are reading this have some more good suggestions?

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