[IPAC-List] A question of personality

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Sun Nov 22 09:18:28 EST 2009

When one uses any tool that looks at the social properties of the
individual, some of what you'll get is "managed" information from
the respondent, and some is the unguarded spontaneous information.
As Harry's informants suggested, it is not really possible to completely
escape the managed information component, even if one were simply
observing the person in a closed windowless room via videocam. So
the question becomes one of whether there is *enough* non-managed
spontaneous information to make a reasoned judgment about the social
properties of that person. In some respects, high scores on faking and
social desirability on a personality test are equivalent to a person leaving
much of an exam unanswered - no basis for evaluation - although in
other respects they ARE information of a sort, aren't they? Here is where
RPClare's advice to declare and define such responding AS information
up front is well-taken. Far too many may interpret a personality inventory
as intended to show "them" that you can be who you think they want you
to be, and not necessarily intended to show who they are when no one is
looking. That it is a promotional exam merely shifts the balance more in
the direction of the first interpretation than the second ("See? I can be
that kind of lieutenant too.")

When you say you have been asked to recommend substitute procedures,
do you mean for the two candidates in question? for the candidates overall?
or simply for any future competitions? By the way, is there anything relevant
from the original writing of the test that could be salvaged as interpretable, or
does the response distortion information negate everything?

Finally, one of the messages that doesn't get out to candidates often enough
is the manner in which many of the things they perceive as obstacles to their
own success in competitions are intended to provide a level playing field FOR
THEIR BENEFIT. In other words, should a candidate bare their soul and self-
report in a throughly honest manner, they should not be penalized for it
because everyone else is faking, either the first time or in any subsequent
competition. It's the same reason we don't provide too much feedback about
some kinds of assessments; open the gates to feedback too much and one
risks giving some candidates an unfair advantage the next time by providing
more usable feedback for some than for others, or by simply giving the
advantage to re-takers over first-timers. The candidate, meanwhile, thinks
you're just holding out on them, rather than holding out on everyone else who
might beat them unfairly. They need to be educated to see things in the big
picture. We need to work harder at that.

My sympathies, Harry.

Mark Hammer

>>> <RPClare at aol.com> 2009/11/21 8:34 am >>>

I agree with Lance that a retake creates the impression of a second chance
that is not provided to others who failed. I also would have concerns
regarding your "overly generous" interpretation. It suggests that they were not
only given a second chance but the requirements were also eased.
I do believe this type of test can have a place in Civil service. We
routinely use "non-scored" hurdles that do not impact the rankings (e.g.
degrees, trainings, licenses, physical exams).
The magic is to clearly communicate what the rules are in advance. For my
own benefit, I would have a clearly written "pass point" for the test. If
that can't be done because there is a "clinical" judgment involved, I would
make sure a credentialed clinician make the call (even if it's only on the
close ones)

In a message dated 11/20/2009 5:51:21 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
Harry.Brull at pdininthhouse.com writes:


I'm interested in any advice in a sticky situation:

Recently I conducted a police lieutenant promotional process for a
department of approximately 100 sworn personnel. One of the components was an
omnibus personality inventory which I "scored". (It happened to be a PDI
proprietary instrument, but the situation would have been no different with, for
example, the California Personality Inventory (CPI) or equivalent.)

Two of the candidates produced invalid profiles (as evidenced by a good
impression and response distortion scale). I asked them to re-take the
instrument and was able to interpret the results (although one resulting profile
was marginally valid and I probably was overly generous in interpreting the

Afterwards, even though his total results placed him well out of the
running for promotion, one of the candidates complained that he was unfairly
treated. Others wondered publically why I didn't just "fail" him for this
portion of the process.

Two Civil Service hearings later, I am feeling somewhat frustrated trying
to explain personality testing, faking, etc. to people who either don't
understand or don't want to understand.

So here's my questions:
* Do self-report measures such as personality profiles have a place in
Civil service procedures which must produce a rank-ordered list of scores?
* Are there instruments which overcome the hurdle of faking (my
internal experts tell me "no")
* What should one do with a candidate profile that is uninterpretable?

I've been asked to recommend substitute procedures. So far I've suggested
oral interview, role-plays, and the Promotability index (a procedure where
multiple raters place candidates of numerical "rungs" of a ladder -
candidate score is the arithmetic average of assigned ratings).

Any ideas out there?

Harry Brull
Harry Brull | Senior Vice-President
PDI Ninth House
Global Leadership Solutions

1.612.337.8233 office
1.612.414.8998 mobile
1.612.337.3695 fax
Harry.Brull at pdininthhouse.com <mailto:First.Last at pdininthhouse.com>

33 South Sixth Street
Suite 4900
Minneapolis, MN 55402


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