Do job applicants lie to get hired?

Key Takeaways:

  • Job applicants make be likely to fake their fit to an organization's culture
  • While this can be a positive or negative feature, companies should rely on more than fit in the hiring process. 

When hiring new employees, organizations want to find someone who easily “fits in,” that is, whose personality or values will match with the company’s culture. Many companies and managers even believe that achieving such “person-organization fit” is even more important than hiring someone who possesses job-relevant skills or abilities. But identifying fit is hard.

For instance, it can be difficult for managers to judge job applicants’ personality or values in an interview. As such, organizations often rely on standardized tests to assess candidates’ personality to identify those whose personality profile would fit their culture.

While personality tests have many advantages, research suggests that they are also prone to applicants adapting their responses to increase their chances of success (a.k.a. “faking”). A recent series of studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggest that applicants are able to fake strategically to increase their fit.[1]

They use information available to them (e.g., from friends working at the company or simply popular review sites like to identify the ideal profile to fit the company’s culture. Then, they adapt their responses to the test to match that profile. For instance, if innovation is central to the company’s culture, applicants respond in a way that make them appear more imaginative and inquisitive. Alternatively, if competition is key, applicants present themselves as less forgiving and more willing to take advantage of others.

Should managers and organizations worry about such findings? On the one hand, yes. While fit is certainly an important factor to ensure job applicants turn into satisfied and productive employees, it likely only works if one relies on true (and not faked) fit. And, more generally, companies should be motivated to hire people who have not lied during the hiring process. On the other hand, it takes skills for applicants to able to identify the right personality profile and adjust their test responses accordingly. Such skills might be valuable when it comes to being successful at work too, like when dealing with ambiguity or unclear instructions from supervisors.

At the very least, companies and managers should be aware that applicants can and do fake to achieve higher fit. And they should not rely solely on fit to decide who to hire or who to promote within the organization. Lastly, If you are interested in similar types of research, see my other publications at


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