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Faking to Fit in: Applicants’ Response Strategies to Match Organizational Culture

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We examine applicant faking as an adaptive response to the specific environment that applicants are confronted with. More specifically, we propose that applicants fake by adapting their responses to the culture of the hiring organization so that they display the personality profile that best matches the organization’s culture. In other words, they fake in a targeted manner, to increase their person-organization (P-O) fit. We tested this proposition in six studies, including experiments and surveys, and focused on competitiveness and innovativeness as two central elements of organizational culture. Results confirm that applicants infer an ideal personality profile from elements of organizational culture and then adapt their responses on personality inventories accordingly. Faking to increase P-O fit was present, albeit slightly weaker, when accounting for the fact that applicants choose organizations that fit their values. Overall, this research highlights the adaptive component of faking and underlines that it should not be considered a behavior that only dishonest individuals show.
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... That is, we construe social desirability to be both an item-level property and a person-level characteristic (McCrae & Costa, 1983;Uziel, 2010;Wiggins, 1968). Item-level social desirability is expected to be mostly a generalizable property of the item with some variation based on the cultural context as well as job- (Dunlop et al., 2012) and organization-specific (Roulin & Krings, 2020) beliefs about the "ideal worker". The capacity to alter responses in an applicant context in a socially desirable manner is defined as the discrepancy between an applicant's true score and the ideal response, which is commonly operationalized as the scale maximum. ...
... Several limitations and potential areas for future research should be noted. First, theory and research suggests that the amount and nature of response distortion varies based on a range of contextual factors including applicant perceptions of the role (Dunlop et al., 2012) and the organization (Roulin & Krings, 2020) as well as over time and between countries (Davidov et al., 2008;Spini, 2003). This topic is particularly important to understand in relation to personal values as researchers and practitioners often emphasize the benefits of values as being highly contingent on the nature of the organization. ...
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Some scholars suggest that organizations could improve their hiring decisions by measuring the personal values of job applicants, arguing that values provide insights into applicants’ cultural fit, retention prospects, and performance outcomes. However, others have expressed concerns about response distortion and faking. The current study provides the first large-scale investigation of the effect of the job applicant context on the psychometric structure and scale means of a self-reported values measure. Participants comprised 7,884 job applicants (41% male; age M = 43.32, SD = 10.76) and a country-, age-, and gender-matched comparison sample of 1,806 non-applicants (41% male; age M = 44.72, SD = 10.97), along with a small repeated-measures, cross-context sample. Respondents completed the 57-item Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ) measuring Schwartz’ universal personal values. Compared to matched non-applicants, applicants reported valuing power and self-direction considerably less, and conformity and universalism considerably more. Applicants also reported valuing security, tradition, and benevolence more than non-applicants, and reported valuing stimulation, hedonism, and achievement less than non-applicants. Despite applicants appearing to embellish the degree to which their values aligned with being responsible and considerate workers, invariance testing suggested that the underlying structure of values assessment is largely preserved in job applicant contexts.
... That is, we construe social desirability to be both an item-level property and a person-level characteristic (McCrae & Costa, 1983;Uziel, 2010;Wiggins, 1968). Item-level social desirability is expected to be mostly a generalizable property of the item with some variation based on the cultural context as well as job- (Dunlop et al., 2012) and organization-specific (Roulin & Krings, 2020) beliefs about the "ideal worker". The capacity to alter responses in an applicant context in a socially desirable manner is defined as the discrepancy between an applicant's true score and the ideal response, which is commonly operationalized as the scale maximum. ...
... Several limitations and potential areas for future research should be noted. First, theory and research suggests that the amount and nature of response distortion varies based on a range of contextual factors including applicant perceptions of the role (Dunlop et al., 2012) and the organization (Roulin & Krings, 2020) as well as over time and between countries (Davidov et al., 2008;Spini, 2003). This topic is particularly important to understand in relation to personal values as researchers and practitioners often emphasize the benefits of values as being highly contingent on the nature of the organization. ...
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Some scholars suggest that organizations could improve their hiring decisions by measuring the personal values of job applicants, arguing that values provide insights into applicants’ cultural fit, retention prospects, and performance outcomes. However, others have expressed concerns about response distortion and faking. The current study provides the first large-scale investigation of the effect of the job applicant context on the psychometric structure and scale means of a self-reported values measure. Participants comprised 7,884 job applicants (41% male; age M = 43.32, SD = 10.76) and a country-, age-, and gender-matched comparison sample of 1,806 non-applicants (41% male; age M = 44.72, SD = 10.97), along with a small repeated-measures, cross-context sample. Respondents completed the 57-item Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ) measuring Schwartz’ universal personal values. Compared to matched non-applicants, applicants reported valuing power and self-direction considerably less, and conformity and universalism considerably more. Applicants also reported valuing security, tradition, and benevolence more than non-applicants, and reported valuing stimulation, hedonism, and achievement less than non-applicants. Despite applicants appearing to embellish the degree to which their values aligned with being responsible and considerate workers, invariance testing suggested that the under- lying structure of values assessment is largely preserved in job applicant contexts.
... As a result, a second generation of self-presentation or faking models (e.g., Marcus, 2009;Roulin et al., 2016) emerged that treat the selection of employees explicitly as a process, determined by a multitude of influencing factors on both the applicant's and the employer's sides. In these models, both parties try to attract the opposing one by transmitting positive information (Marcus, 2009;Roulin & Krings, 2020) over the whole process. ...
... We hope that this shift in perspective will serve as a starting point for a more balanced account of the antecedents and consequences of applicants' self-presentation than the currently still predominant view of "faking" as some form of deviant behaviour. Marcus (2009) proposed a dynamic process model, based on the assumption that applicants will adapt their motivation and their behaviour based on information obtained at different stages of selection (see also Roulin & Krings, 2020;Tett & Simonet, 2011). Testing this model adequately requires a complex design. ...
Article
Self-presentation in a selection setting has largely been viewed as deviant and detrimental for validity, often simplified by the label “faking behaviour”. Yet, applicants may also express meaningful skills and motivation when presenting themselves. In this paper, we present an empirical test of a theory of self-presentation, which takes this position. By simulating a complete selection process, from choosing a position to final decision-making about job offers, we test several key assumptions the model made. If motivation was operationalized as willingness to deviate from true self-image, findings provide partial support for proposed antecedents of initial motivation, for motivational changes during the selection process, for the hypothesis that greater discrepancy between true self-image and perceived expectations lower the motivation to self-present and for expected effects of analytical self-presentation skills. Hardly any support was found for propositions if motivation was operationalized as willingness to adapt to perceived employer’s ideals and for proposed antecedents of analytical skills.
... As a result, a second generation of self-presentation or faking models (e.g., Marcus, 2009, Roulin et al., 2016 emerged that treat the selection of employees explicitly as a process, determined by a multitude of influencing factors on both the applicant's and the employer's side. In these models, both parties try to attract the opposing one by transmitting positive information (Marcus, 2009;Roulin & Krings, 2020) over the whole process. ...
... We hope that this shift in perspective will serve as a starting point for a more balanced account of the antecedents and consequences of applicants' self-presentation than the currently still predominant view of 'faking' as some form of deviant behaviour. Marcus (2009) proposed a dynamic process model, based on the assumption that applicants will adapt their motivation and their behaviour based on information obtained at different stages of selection (see also Roulin & Krings, 2020;Tett and Simonet, 2011). Testing this model adequately requires a complex design. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Behaviour in selection situations as an adaptation to external expectations: Testing a theory of self-presentation Self-presentation in a selection setting has largely been viewed as deviant and detrimental for validity, often simplified by the label "faking behaviour". Yet, applicants may also express meaningful skills and motivation when presenting themselves. In this paper, we present an empirical test of Marcus' (2009) theory of self-presentation, which takes this position. By simulating a complete selection process, from choosing a position to final decision making about job offers, we test several key assumptions the model made. If motivation was operationalized as willingness to deviate from true self-image, findings provide partial support for proposed antecedents of initial motivation, for motivational changes during the selection process, for the hypothesis that greater discrepancy between true self-image and perceived expectations lower the motivation to self-present, and for expected effects of analytical self-presentation skills. Hardly any support was found for propositions if motivation was operationalized as willingness to adapt to perceived employer's ideals, and for proposed antecedents of analytical skills. Link to published version: https://doi.org/10.1080/1359432X.2021.1981866
... whether specific industry characteristics (i.e., industry competition and industry regulation) moderate such a relationship. We mainly focus on the employee ratings of career opportunity (CO) and work-life balance (WLB), both of which are critical aspects of subjective career success (Heslin, 2005;Ng & Feldman, 2014;Smale et al., 2019;Zhou et al., 2016), and have been featured in multiple high-quality studies (e.g., Roulin & Krings, 2020;Stern et al., 2021). On the Glassdoor website, employees evaluate these two dimensions of their employers by providing optional star ratings. ...
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The value of a company’s ethical reputation has become a focal point for management researchers. We seek to join this conversation and extend the research centered on a firm’s ethical reputation. We accomplish this by shifting our focus away from its impact on external stakeholders to its impact on internal stakeholders. To this end, we rely on signaling theory to explain why a firm’s ethical reputation matters to its employees in an effort to bridge the macro–micro research gap. Across two studies, we propose and demonstrate that a firm’s ethical reputation impacts employee subjective career success in form of career opportunities and work–life balance. Given our signaling theory framework, we also identify and explain when two industry-level characteristics operate as boundary conditions that distort a firm’s ethical reputation signaling properties. Specifically, the results demonstrate that a firm’s ethical reputation is positively related to employees’ perceptions of career opportunities and work–life balance. The results of our studies also demonstrate that the relatively high levels of industry competition and industry regulation weaken the positive impact of a firm’s ethical reputation on career opportunities and work–life balance. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... To date, researchers have published various studies focusing on the following research questions: 1) Can people fake? 2) Do applicants fake? and 3) Does the faking matter? As a result of these studies, it is now widely accepted that people can intentionally distort their responses (Byle & Holtgraves, 2008;Grubb & McDaniel, 2007;Ziegler et al., 2007) and applicants do fake responses in the selection settings (Arthur et al., 2010;Fell & König, 2016;Griffith & Converse, 2012;Peterson et al., 2011;Roulin & Krings, 2020). Additionally, applicants differ in their ability and motivation to fake responses (Ellingson & McFarland, 2011;Griffith et al., 2011;Marcus, 2009;McFarland & Ryan, 2000;Pavlov et al., 2019;Roulin et al., 2016), and faking responses generally have a negative impact on psychometric property, decision making (e.g., rank order), and the overall utility of personality tests (Birkeland et al., 2006;Donovan et al., 2014;Hough & Dilchert, 2017;Lee et al., 2017;Mueller-Hanson et al., 2003;Zickar et al., 2004). ...
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