What kind of psych test does Borders administer to job applicants?
January 31, 2005 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Borders administers some type of psych test when you apply online (or in store). What is the test and (of course) what are the best responses?
posted by Jim Jones to Work & Money (31 answers total)
I hate those goddamned tests. We used to give one when I worked at a nationwide electronics retailer (ok, it was RadioShack). Those tests don't tell the employer whether you're going to steal or not; they tell them whether you're a liberal or not. The question that always got me: "It is always wrong to steal: Yes or No." Well for fuck's sake it's not always wrong. Basically, they want to find out if you think in black and white or in shades of gray. I lied my ass off to get that job.

Be careful, and make sure you check questions against ones that came before to see if they're asking the same thing, slightly rephrased, to catch you in a lie. Lie about almost everything you've ever done wrong, except if they ask you if you ever lie, in which case you have to answer yes, because everyone lies once in a while.

Oh, and I tried to get an answer key to test my thesis about the test's conservative bias, but they refused.
posted by goatdog at 7:36 PM on January 31, 2005

A friend of mine got a copy of the test they give to teachers, and the key for desired results. Much of it was about respect for authority, team work, and anti-union sentiment. She just channeled her right wing relatives and got a perfect score.

She's now a union steward.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:43 PM on January 31, 2005

She's now a union steward.


And, yeah the psych tests that I've seen are actually testing your ability to consistently tell them what they want to hear.
posted by jperkins at 8:05 PM on January 31, 2005

A long time ago I applied at Target and needed to take one of these tests. Question 32 was, "Can you count to 50?" Question 35 was, "Can you count to 100?" I got so mad I answered everything else wrong (right) and didn't get the job. Not so disappointing in the long run.
posted by dual_action at 8:17 PM on January 31, 2005

So I guess I should answer the question - Lie your ass off. You are a very honest, loyal person who will sacrifice your friends no matter what they do (take a hanger from the break room *gasp*) until you die or the store goes under.

It's the only way to get the job, and you may feel slimy for a while afterwards, but how do you think everyone else got hired?
posted by dual_action at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2005

The question that always got me: "It is always wrong to steal: Yes or No." Well for fuck's sake it's not always wrong

Um. Yes it is. It can be less wrong than another action -- for sake of argument, letting your child starve if you don't get some food somehow -- but that doesn't mean your conscience is pristine.
posted by kindall at 9:12 PM on January 31, 2005

In your example, my conscience would be pristine. Which is why I was lying when I answered that question "yes": that's a perfect example when I would not feel that stealing is wrong. I also don't think that downloading music is wrong, even though, by law, it is "wrong," and by the RIAA's definition, it is stealing.
posted by goatdog at 9:58 PM on January 31, 2005

Not that I would ever download any music illegally, of course. (damnit, they'll be after me now.)

But you get my point: I think "wrong" is a subjective thing, and there are situations where I, in my own little moral universe, would not think that stealing is wrong.
posted by goatdog at 10:05 PM on January 31, 2005

For most of those retail employment tests if you remember the phrase "ALL crime is bad, ALL people are good" you'll do OK. Yes, you'd turn your own Mother in for stealing a piece of bread because she's hungry. No, nobody that you would associate with would commit a crime. Yes, taking home some rubberbands from work is stealing. If a question seems confusing, just remember that you hate all crime and you would never associate with somebody that is dishonest (if you did, it would reflect negatively on your character).

I thought that there'd be some kind of red flag if you answered all the questions too unrealistically positive, but I don't think there is. The system is set up to spot inconsistencies, which is why you get so many questions that are only slight variations of the same thought.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:11 PM on January 31, 2005

If you must resort to theft to feed your hungry child, you are to feel guilt for it. This guilt will motivate you to bring yourself out of the circumstances in which it is necessary to steal to support your child. After you have succeeded, your conscience will spur you to pay restitution to those you stole from.
posted by kindall at 10:12 PM on January 31, 2005

Is that how it works? Wow, thanks. Since I've obviously never thought things like this through for myself, your instruction has done me a great deal of good. Thanks, man.

Now, we should derail this further with a discussion of the ethics of downloading music.
posted by goatdog at 10:20 PM on January 31, 2005

I had to take one of those stupid tests at Sears. I wished for questions like "Stealing is always wrong, yes or no"; it was all insanely personal stuff, like about your family life and stuff. It was weird....
posted by dagnyscott at 10:24 PM on January 31, 2005

My test for my current job was something like ten questions with four multiple-choice answers each. I didn't agree with any of the answers at all; the questions and answers were very abstract. I was told by my honest now-boss not to think very much about it, and that the only people who actually care about the results live in the hideous and useless pit of Human Resources.

I just answered what I thought they wanted me to answer.

When I got the job, I was given a form that graphed my personality in a little four-by-four box. Each question was accompanied by an explanation of what each answer meant about me--calculated by a computer--and all of the explanations were wrong and ludicrous.

You may run into this type of personality test. It doesn't have obvious questions like "do you like to steal?"; the questions were more on the order of "when did you stop beating your wife?".
posted by interrobang at 10:46 PM on January 31, 2005

Thanks for the feedback, y'all. It's very helpful. Please keep it coming. Slack, that was one of my questions, exactly. Is hyper-positive and super-friendly a red flag? Who could be chipper and bubbly and rah-rah-rah all the time?

What about questions such as: do you like being in crowds, are you a leader or follower, did you get good grades in high school? Also, does anyone know if time matters? The instructions said something about not spending too much time on the question but I was wondering if they had an optimal time figured into the scoring.

As for downloading music, I believe that [redacted].

kindall, are you joking or serious? I can't tell.
posted by Jim Jones at 11:33 PM on January 31, 2005

I've only ever filled in one of these tests when going for a job. It was pre-interview and I didn't get the interview. I was honest.

Mind you, I took a test that supposed to show your political leanings. It showed me left of Nelson Mandella and Ghandi. Quite a way left.

While I could still be picky I stopped working on any application where a personality test arrived. It was pretty pointless. The questions were badly worded and told me more about the place I was applying to than it could have possibly said about me.

I never needed the money enough to make it worth lying to get into a miserable job that I would have only been kicked out of within two months.
posted by krisjohn at 12:38 AM on February 1, 2005

i took one of these previously (for a video store) where the manager upfront said "if you don't fit the profile the test is looking for, we won't call you back -- it's out of my hands". I got the idea that they not only profile you for supposed qualities they'd want in an employee (sub-servience, being a narc, etc etc) they also want to make sure you fit the proper profile for the position you're applying for.

IE, if the computer spits out something that says "manager personality" and they're not hiring managers, you don't get a callback.

(fwiw, i wasn't asked to interview, but that's ok, because it would've been a shitty job).
posted by fishfucker at 1:16 AM on February 1, 2005

Not to drone on, but I believe in a social contract. They aren't offering you the same candor. You can't ask them, "So, if my kid gets sick will you keep me on? "Are you the kind of employer that is going to cut my hours before my benefits kick in? "Are you just going to hire the best looking person who applies?

Besides, psychopaths excel at these things, nice people do not. This test isn't really helping them.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:14 AM on February 1, 2005

This test isn't really helping them.
Well, it is, because it helps to justify their continued existence in the hideous and useless pit of Human Resources.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:26 AM on February 1, 2005

I have seen honest-to-God blatant demands for explanation of religious philosophy on employment personality evaluation forms. In the state of (Northern) California. My sister was applying for a job at a Christian bookstore and brought it to me. If my memory serves, I used the opportunity to get her high and talk about Jesus, of whom she seemed to have a pretty cinematic view. I did my best to write down everything she said in the corresponding spaces, which were woefully inadequate. How do you ask, "What does God's mercy mean to you?" and then give the respondent two and a half lines?

I wish I would have kept that form, instead of sending it off to its certain shredding. Of course the best answers would be simple and clear, black and white, as should the answers the question asker should be providing.

Goatdog, owner of one of the finest handles on this board, I would love to see a photo of you standing behind a Radio Shack counter.

(Hey, they got shots of me in a Fotomat. Workin the booth, homeboy.)

On Preview:

the hideous and useless pit of Human Resources

Hey, that was engraved into the door of my last office!
posted by squirrel at 4:06 AM on February 1, 2005

Basically, these tests are geared to people far less intelligent than you. Remember that. Don't overthink it. Your initial gut instinct is always correct. Take the "Is it always wrong to steal?" question. Everyone's gut answer ought to be "yes"- only on further reflection does it get nuanced.

Forget the reflection, forget the nuance.
posted by mkultra at 6:41 AM on February 1, 2005

... this is normal in the USA? You have to take a written personality test for a retail job? When did this begin?
posted by Termite at 7:42 AM on February 1, 2005

Back when I was in high school (over 20 years ago), I applied for a job where they administered what was billed as an "honesty test" and which was probably very similar to this. I was told by my friend who worked at the place to choose the answer that made me sound most virtuous, no matter how ridiculous. Some of the questions completely confounded me--I couldn't even guess what answer the test-makers were fishing for. I remember one of the questions went something like "My parents are super-honest and never lie to me. True/False"

Clearly they were fishing for a specific response, but to this day, I can't figure out which!
posted by adamrice at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2005

Be a little careful with the lying, though -- on most of these tests there is a "lie scale." That means that, interspersed with all the questions about whether or not you think stealing is wrong are certain questions that only someone who is lying their way through the test would answer in the affirmative. Such as: "I am never in a bad mood," or "I am never angry." Scoring high on the "lie scale" is just as bad as saying you're a liar.
posted by jennyjenny at 7:59 AM on February 1, 2005

I've always found it amusing that the only jobs I've applied for that use these tests are the jobs I wanted the least.
Low pay customer service positions, mostly, in the retail/service sector, without any hope of benefits.

Since I started working in the corporate world I have yet to see a single one.
I honestly wonder why that is.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2005

adamrice: I'm guessing false. It's one of those 'always' questions that can't truthfully be answered 'True', given the omnipresent parental shading of truth, a la Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, 'now Rover lives on a farm & plays all day in the fields' etc...

on preview, what jennyjenny said
posted by leotrotsky at 8:50 AM on February 1, 2005

For one of my jobs, I work in the other major bookselling chain, and never had to take a test like this. The store I currently work for doesn't require drug testing either.

When I applied at Target about 7-8 years ago, I took a test like this, and still managed to get the job. I thought that I gave honest answers (I wouldn't turn in a friend for stealing- an example of an answer I gave).
posted by drezdn at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2005

I wanted to get a part time holiday job for some extra cash money at the Borders near my real job.

I applied online and the personality test was like 38 pages long. About 1/3 of the way in, I just gave up and answered B to every question.

I don't see why running a cash register and gift wrapping for 6 weeks warrants this.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2005

Bullseye, kindall....
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:51 AM on February 1, 2005

kindall, are you joking or serious? I can't tell.

Utterly serious. In life, most of the options available to you at any time are bad to varying degrees, and the best you can do is choose the least wrong one. But least wrong is different from right.
posted by kindall at 11:01 AM on February 1, 2005

I worked at Borders, I took that test, and I lied my ass off as well.
posted by sluggo at 2:43 PM on February 1, 2005

A shrink friend once told me the idea behind the test is to see if you give the answer EXPECTED. A sociopath would mess this up, and weeding out sociopaths is the main purpose behind such tests. Apparently sociopaths aren't covered by the A.D.A.

Sure, most of us on here are offended by such crap. And the jobs that require such crap aren't looking for folks with enough brains to get a better job anytime soon.
posted by Goofyy at 4:01 AM on February 2, 2005

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