Can Our Sales Assessment Test be Cheated?
By David Pearce, President, SalesTestOnline.com
One of the most common questions I am asked by prospective clients is related to the issue of job applicants being able to "cheat" or "game" our sales assessment test. So many people ask the same question in one form or another that I assume that even the ones who do not ask might like an answer to this question.
The first thing to understand is that the very reason you use a sales assessment test is to avoid being fooled by the job applicant. If you have never been fooled by an applicant, you probably have not hired any sales people. The prospects that call us to enquire about our sales assessment test realize that it is nearly impossible to get a true picture of the person via a job interview. Almost all of them have hired sales people who looked great in the interview only to discover some months later that what they saw was definitely not what they got. They know from practical experience that the interview is a very poor tool to get at the real person. So they are looking at the sales assessment test as a means of cutting through the role (the applicant is playing) and getting to the real person.
Therefore to be of any use at all the sales assessment test must perform this most basic function. I would liken a sales assessment company that offers tests that are easily cheated to a boat maker that builds leaky boats, a car company that builds cars that do not run or a tape measure company that sells tape measures that are not accurate. The function that they are expected to perform is so fundamental that if that function is not being performed then it begs the question: what is the reason they are offering the product in the first place? You can probably assume that any reputable sales assessment company has this basic function covered. If not, they can't or won't stay in business very long.
But this does not actually answer the question at hand. To address this question of cheating it is helpful to break it down into 2 different categories. The first category I will refer to as True Cheating and the second category I will refer to as Role Playing.
True Cheating is extremely rare. Despite the fact that we do many tens of thousands of evaluations per year, there are typically only a handful of examples of True Cheating reported to us. The reason why it is such a rare thing is actually pretty simple. Most people who are taking a sales assessment test have something to lose by messing with it too much. Most applicants have taken enough sales assessment tests to know that sales assessments have validation alerts built in that will advise the employer if they try to "push the envelope too far". Our system has an alert of this type and I am sure that most sales assessment systems do also. Applicants "know" or think that if they play with the test to the point that the results are invalid that they run a good risk of being disqualified for consideration. So when push comes to shove almost all applicants will give a pretty honest response to the sales assessment questions.
Nothing is foolproof however. We would never suggest that our sales assessment test cannot possibly be cheated and nor would any other reputable sales assessment organization. Even if someone manages to cheat the sales assessment, the point to understand is that in the real world you are not using the sales assessment as a stand-alone hiring tool. The other things you are doing and the tools you are using to understand the applicant will serve as a back-stop. Let us suppose that the applicant manages to cheat the test. His resume, his references and his experience will most likely be contradicted by the results of the sales assessment test. Most important, the way that he comes off in your interviews with him will completely fly in the face of what is contained in his evaluation. In the real world you will be asking all sorts of questions and doing extra due diligence because of all the contradictory information. You would never nor should you ever hire someone just because they score well on a sales assessment test.
The second category of "cheating" should not, in my opinion, be considered cheating in the real sense of the term. I refer to it as Role Playing. I sometimes will refer to it as "putting ones best foot forward" or "polishing the apple". I do not consider it cheating because it is what nearly everyone does during interviews in order to portray ones self in the best light to the employer. The person wants the job and therefore portrays the image of what they perceive the employer is looking for. This is at the very heart of why you use a sales assessment test such as ours. People play roles, which they can play convincingly for a short time, such as an interview. If you hire that person based on what you see you can sometimes be quite disappointed.
This Role Playing when taking the sales assessment test can take many forms. Some examples might be; a rather introverted applicant attempting to portray a more outgoing image; a person with a naturally lower level of assertiveness trying to portray a higher level of assertiveness; perhaps a rather disorganized person trying to project the impression of being more organized.
Sales assessments such as ours are constructed in such a way as to allow for the fact that most applicants will be Role Playing to a degree, when they take the test. If they push this Role Playing too far into the realm of Real Cheating the validity alerts will trigger. If the Role Playing is minor (which it is in most instances) the test will allow for it and "look past the role" to get to the "true" person. The evaluation report that results from the sales assessment test will be describing the "true" person while ignoring the role he was playing.
In conclusion it is probably pretty fair to assume that if a company is offering a sales assessment that has a demonstrated track record, then you can trust it to not be easily cheated or manipulated by job applicants. However, since you should be using the assessment with other hiring tools, you may want to "trust but verify".
David Pearce is the President of SalesTestOnline.com. Established in 1986, SalesTestOnline.com is North America's #1 provider of pre employment assessment testing of sales candidates as well as sales profiling tools used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. SalesTestOnline.com has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.
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