HR Strange But True!
September 23, 2010
The current job market has few openings and a high volume of jobseekers. The fierce competition may have some HR managers wondering, are applicants exaggerating to get noticed?

A new study comparing the exaggeration rates in 2006 versus 2009 has some surprising findings. While the exaggeration rates increased, the results were not as high as expected given the current economy.

The researchers, George W. Dudley and Trelitha R. Bryant at Behavioral Sciences Research Press in Dallas, Texas, used SPQ*GOLD®, a psychological test that can be used to expose exaggerators.

Two sets of data were compared, exaggeration rates in 2006 when the unemployment rate was 4.5%, and rates in 2009 when the unemployment rate reached 10 percent.
Here are the key findings:

  • The exaggeration rate increased around the same percent as the unemployment rate (around 5%.)
    • In 2006, 44% exaggerated enough to warrant careful verification.  
    • In 2009, 49% exaggerated enough to warrant careful verification.
  • The exaggeration rate increased more for women than men.
    • Exaggeration rates among women went from 41% in 2006 to 47% in 2009 (6%.)
    • Exaggeration rates among men went from 45% in 2006 to 49% in 2009 (4%.)

While the exaggeration rate for women (47 percent) is still less than men (49 percent), the increase could imply there is more pressure on women to find employment in the current job market.

Tanner noted that, "a 44 percent exaggeration base rate for U.S. applicants is enough to caution any organization using pre-employment tests to verify results carefully. The 5 percent increase we found reflects the harsh reality of trying to gain employment when few organizations are hiring.  But, that increase, though theoretically 'significant,' is less than we expected given current economic conditions."

Jobseekers exaggerating is nothing new for HR professionals. A previous multi-national study of over 200,000 adults found that 6.2 percent will overemphasize their abilities regardless of economic conditions or job availability.  



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