Why you should hire candidates that fake answers during interviews

Should you reject candidates if they fake answers during interviews, or does faking make them good candidates? According to various academic journals, faking answers is a nuanced topic, and the ability to fake answers could lead to positive hiring outcomes for a company. So, before you reject that candidate you suspect is faking answers, have a look below at the pros of faking answers to help you hire the right person.

First, I’ll provide some helpful context by explaining the science of impression management. Then, I’ll go into the positive effects of faking answers during interviews and how you can use these insights when hiring candidates. I’ve added the academic sources for this blog at at the end.

How do you impress someone?

Impression management (or IM) is how people try to influence the images others form of them during interactions. We do IM when we try to give our boss a good impression, meet our partner’s parents, or attend an employment interview. Some candidates use nonverbal tactics, such as smiling, or assertiveness to create a good image. Candidates can use self-promotion IM tactics, such as claiming responsibility for accomplishments. They can use other-focused IM tactics, such as complementing the interviewer or company. Another example is opinion conformity: candidates claim to hold the same values as the interviewer. Candidates can also use defensive tactics such as apologising to improve a wrong impression.

How candidates fake answers

But is impression management good or bad? Researchers distinguish deceptive IM – when candidates talk about nonexisting accomplishments – and honest IM – when candidates colourfully describe their achievements. 

Deceptive IM, or faking, is the problematic strategy, and candidates can engage in four types of deceptive IM: First, slight image creation – when candidates distort or embellish prior experiences or qualifications; second, extensive image creation: when candidates intentionally fabricate or invent experiences or qualifications; Third, image protection—deliberately omitting or masking unpleasant experiences or qualifications; fourth, deceptive ingratiation—insincere praise of the interviewer or organisation.

The type of answers candidates fake

What is it that we’re trying to fake during interviews? We can see a difference between faking job-specific (mainly hard) skills versus soft skills and personality. For the most part, you can’t fake job-specific skills. You can’t pretend to know the Python programming language or open-heart surgery.

However, assessing personality and soft skills is more complicated. It’s a bit easier for people to say they’re a team player, have low egos, or are hard workers. Verifying if someone truly has these traits is challenging.

Why faking is ok

However, some researchers explain that faking personality traits is not necessarily a problem and might even be good. Here are a few reasons why:

  • First: Good candidates tend to fake good responses, and bad candidates cannot crack the test and provide inadequate responses.
  • Second: Certain jobs primarily require soft skills and amicable personalities, such as restaurant waiters, sales executives, and casino employees. Someone with solid – even deceptive IM skills is more likely to succeed at these jobs.
  • The third argument is the most important one – faking is a sign of social adaptability: Faking answers shows that you can adjust to different social situations. When people respond to personality tests or questions, you can see these answers as an ‘automatic and often non-conscious effort to negotiate an identity with the interviewer/test developer’. In other words, if you can pretend to be good in a test, you can probably do the same in the workplace (and life in general). Another researcher brilliantly said, ‘if faking is defined in terms of saying what you think you ought to say rather than what you want to say, then that is called civilisation’.

Conclusion

Ultimately, we’re social beings, and we all want to impress the person in front of us, especially during interviews. Many candidates will try to make past experiences and personality traits look better than they are, and that’s ok. If a candidate gives you an excellent first impression during an interview, that could mean they’re a good candidate with strong social adjustment skills, so don’t reject them just yet.
Sources for this blog:

Published by José Marchena

Hi, I'm Jose Marchena I’m a London-based internal recruiter, host of the Coffee with a Recruiter podcast and occasional blogger. I use this website to explore insights on recruitment, productivity and self-development.

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