Improving Reactions to Forced-Choice Personality Measures in Simulated Job Application Contexts Through the Satisfaction of Psychological Needs
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There is a wealth of evidence justifying the use of personality assessments for selection. Nonetheless, some reluctance to use these assessments stems from their perceived vulnerability to response distortion (i.e., faking) and the somewhat negative applicant reactions they elicit, when compared to other assessments. Adopting a forced-choice personality assessment format appears to alleviate the former problem but exacerbates the latter. In this study, we introduce basic psychological needs as a theoretical foundation to develop interventions to improve reactions to forced-choice personality assessments. We propose that the forced-choice format impedes respondents’ desire to respond to items in a preferred way, interfering with autonomy need satisfaction, and constrains respondents’ opportunity to show their capabilities, interfering with competence need satisfaction. In this pre-registered between-subjects experiment (N = 1565), we investigated two modifications to a ranked forced-choice personality questionnaire and compared these to traditional forced-choice and single-stimulus (Likert) formatted questionnaires. One modification, where participants could write a free-text response following the assessment, did not show significant effects on reactions. The second modification allowed participants to view all items they had ranked last (first) and then identify any the participant believed in fact described them well (poorly). That modification positively affected perceived autonomy- and competence-support, and fairness perceptions, bridging approximately half of the gap between reactions to forced-choice and single-stimulus assessment formats. This study suggests that a modification to forced-choice personality questionnaires may improve applicant reactions and that basic psychological needs theory may be a fruitful lens through which to further understand reactions to assessments.
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