Screening Candidates For ‘Will Do’ Qualities Is One Of The Most Important Things An Employer Can Do

Posted in Hirepayoff News

“And while many employers fret candidates will ‘fake good’ on tests of ‘Will Do’ competencies during the selection process, the fear can be put to rest,” says Dr. Leaetta Hough, Chief Science Officer with HirePayoff™

June 20, 2013 – Virtually everyone agrees that screening applicants on their “Will Do” competencies is important to ensuring effective on-the-job performance. Yet many are concerned applicants will use “fake-good responses” to increase their chances of getting hired when such personality assessments are included in the employment testing process.

According to Dr. Leaetta Hough, Chief Science Officer with HirePayoff™, “Most HR leaders are confident selection procedures available today can assess ‘Can Do,’ ‘Able To,’ and ‘Done That’ competencies with tools such as knowledge, skills and cognitive abilities tests, structured interviews, or hands-on physical assessments.” Dr. Hough adds, “But this is not the case for ‘Will Do’ competencies. Many employers worry job candidates will “fake good” in their responses to personality, attitude, and interest tests during the employment testing process to increase their chances of being hired. They believe candidates intentionally “fake good” to create a good impression.”

As part of her work with HirePayoff™, Dr. Hough has assembled an extensive review of evidence about candidate faking of ‘Will Do’ screening tools. The focus – biodata and personality testing tools that measure competencies such as dependability, team play, drive to succeed, and the inclination to join in with the employer’s organization – employee engagement. Her finding – strong evidence that, correctly done, biodata and personality testing of ‘Will Do’ competencies adds accuracy and payoff to hiring decisions.

“You can boil the volumes of research down to a few key points,” says Dr. Hough:

  • Yes, people can significantly increase their scores on personality assessments. This evidence comes primarily from research studies where they’re told to fake good.
  • But faking in real-world candidate screening settings is not nearly as frequent, or as large in magnitude, as in ivory tower, directed-to-fake studies.
  • Using today’s design models, faking can be controlled through a variety of tried-and-proven strategies.
  • Sound research with measures of ‘Will Do’ competencies shows that, done properly, they work well when testing real job candidates applying for real jobs. Such measures definitely predict candidates’ future, on the-job performance and employee engagement as well as other important outcomes such as lower absenteeism and turnover rates, and all done with much less, if any, adverse impact against protected groups.

According to Dr. Hough, research with the tools she and her colleagues at HirePayoff™ have implemented in employer recruitment and selection settings helps prove the last two points. “We recently produced a ‘Will Do’ screening tool for a major retailer. The goal – improve the ROI gained through thousands of Sales Associate hiring decisions made every year,” says Dr. Hough. “Part of our work involved a test validation study with more than 400 of the retailer’s current Sales Associates. Our work showed that the way Sales Associates scored on the ‘Will Do’ screening tool correlated significantly with the company’s evaluations of their on the-job sales performance; just what we hoped to find,” adds Hough.

“Of course, the current Sales Associates we worked with had no reason to fake their answers when they completed the ‘Will Do’ screening tool. They already were employed, and we promised them their scores would not be shared with the company, or have any effect on their jobs,” says Dr. Hough.

“Next, we set screening standards on the new recruitment and selection tool, projected the financial payoff it would produce through finding Sales Associates, and laid out a web-based platform for gathering candidate assessments as the company processed thousands of applications,” adds Dr. Hough. “Then came the real challenge,” says Dr. Hough. “We screened more than 20,000 candidates in the first three months. The big question – Was there evidence of faking when we turned to dealing with real candidates?”

“Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words,” says Dr. Hough. Shown below is the range of ‘Will Do’ scores found for the more than 400 current Sales Associates who completed the tool during its design phase. The distribution of Sales Associate scores shows they spread themselves out on the screening tool, just as on their job performance evaluations.


“Next, we checked to see how the group of more than 20,000 candidates scored on the same ‘Will Do’ selection procedure screen,” says Dr. Hough. “The results confirm how well the tool controlled faking. The graphic below shows how candidates scored on the screening tool. The distribution of scores looks far smoother because of the very large number of candidates tested, but the range of scores and the average score achieved for the two groups were very similar,” Dr. Hough adds.


“If measuring a candidate’s ‘Will Do’ qualities were faked, why didn’t the candidate group – all looking for a job – stack up at the top of the range of scores? Why did they spread themselves out just like current employees who had no motivation to fake their answers? Why didn’t candidates average far higher scores on the employee selection tool?” asks Dr. Hough. “We have seen similar results in study after study undertaken by the HirePayoff™ team. “Yes, you can measure ‘Will Do’ competencies in ways that predict new-hire performance, and in ways that are not faked,” concludes Dr. Hough.

About HirePayoff™

Leaetta Hough, PhD, is one of the world’s leaders in developing innovative employment testing systems. Her work has helped shape the science and practice of Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She is past president of both the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS), a coalition of 22 scientific societies. She is co-editor of the Handbook of Industrial & Organizational Psychology, and author of three articles identified as seminal publications in the last 100 years. She is regarded as one of the world’s experts in personality testing in the workplace.

Today, Dr. Hough is Chief Science Officer with HirePayoff™, developing new hiring processes of ‘Can Do,’ ‘Will Do,’ ‘Able To,’ and ‘Done That’ competencies that yield reliable, valid, and fair predictions of job performance with less adverse impact and other desirable bottom-line outcomes, such as higher job performance, employee engagement, sales performance, and customer satisfaction as well as lower absenteeism and turnover rates. For more information, visit

For more detail about the research and conclusions associated with personality testing and ‘Will Do’ measurement, see Hough & Connelly (2012) “Personality Measurement and Use in Industrial-Organizational Psychology” in the APA Handbook on Testing and Assessment published by the American Psychological Association. See also Hough & Johnson (2013) “Use and Importance of Personality Variables in Work Settings” in the Handbook of Psychology published by Wiley.

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Dr. David Jones
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