Looking for ways to weed out the cheats

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

Landing a job with a large multinational company is like winning the lottery for graduates in the mainland. Salaries are up to five times the amount offered by local companies and there is plenty of potential for steep career trajectories, so it is understandable that competition for these jobs is fierce.

However, there is increasing concern about the lengths that applicants will go to to secure these jobs.

A recent poll by SHL Hong Kong found that 80 per cent of Hong Kong's human resources professionals thought that candidates deliberately misled organisations about their education or skills during the recruitment process. More than half of the human resources staff polled had first-hand experience of such misrepresentation in Hong Kong or the mainland.

'This mirrors global findings,' said Peter Finch, managing director, Greater China of SHL. 'A recent survey in Britain found that during a job interview, 57 per cent think it is acceptable to stretch the truth, 33 per cent exaggerate their skills, 28 per cent omit negative information and 27 per cent fib about previous salaries.'

As well as lying during interviews or on resumes, applicants can abuse the recruitment system by cheating during online ability tests. This is easily done because these tests are taken remotely and unsupervised.

Questions can be photographed and reproduced for public consumption, or candidates can even resort to recruiting a smarter, sharper friend to do the test for them.

'There is growing concern that online assessments can be so easily compromised because they are used ubiquitously and are heavily relied on by human resources professionals. They are the most accurate predictor of future performance. More accurate than educational background, job experience, references, or resumes,' Mr Finch said.

Online assessments were particularly useful for human resources professionals in Hong Kong and the mainland, he said, as companies were recruiting people in large numbers to feed the economic growth in the region. They needed to be able to assess the applicants quickly and effectively, and online ability tests could make this possible.

But how can these companies edge out the cheats and recruit the people they want?

Some companies are adopting an 'honesty contract' system, where applicants are asked to sign a contract declaring that they will take the test honestly before they embark on the assessment. Research has shown that this prevents about 20 per cent of applicants from cheating.

Another method is to produce ability tests with a huge pool of questions. This means that every candidate sees a different test so photographing the test on the screen or remembering questions will not help any other candidate.

Even with these measures in place, there has been no way of knowing, until now, whether the person who successfully completed the unsupervised ability test is the same person attending the shortlisted interview. SHL, which provides psychometric assessment and development solutions, has developed a system that should put companies' minds at ease. The firm offers two tests, one to be taken at home, unsupervised, and one 10-minute verification test taken in the employer's office by candidates just before the interview.

Number crunching

80 per cent of Hong Kong HR professionals think job applicants try to cheat the system

94 per cent of HR professionals believe that assessment tests are a useful HR tool

68 per cent consider cheating online to be an issue

Hong Kong HR professionals are 50 per cent more concerned about cheating in online ability testing than their British counterparts