Role of social desirability in personality testing for personnel selection: The red herring

Deniz S. Ones, Chockalingam Viswesvaran, Angelika D. Reiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

587 Scopus citations


Response bias continues to be the most frequently cited criticism of personality testing for personnel selection. The authors meta-analyzed the social desirability literature, examining whether social desirability functions as a predictor for a variety of criteria, as a suppressor, or as a mediator. Social desirability scales were found not to predict school success, task performance, counterproductive behaviors, and job performance. Correlations with the Big Five personality dimensions, cognitive ability, and years of education are presented along with empirical evidence that (a) social desirability is not as pervasive a problem as has been anticipated by industrial-organizational psychologists, (b) social desirability is in fact related to real individual differences in emotional stability and conscientiousness, and (c) social desirability does not function as a predictor, as a practically useful suppressor, or as a mediator variable for the criterion of job performance. Removing the effects of social desirability from the Big Five dimensions of personality leaves the criterion-related validity of personality constructs for predicting job performance intact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-679
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1996


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