Sometimes what candidates say sounds a little fishy. Other times they omit key details that would probably influence your hiring decision. A bad hire is costly, so recruiters should know how to spot an untruth.
Find Their Baseline
An actual polygraph (lie detector) test works by measuring a person’s breathing, pulse, blood pressure and perspiration. Some also measure body movement. After the technician attaches sensors to the subject, they ask simple questions to establish what is normal for that person. Try doing a similar evaluation the next time you conduct an interview.
Start with low-stress questions like how long it took them to get to your office or how they heard about the position. Notice how they sit in their chair, how they breathe and what their eyes do when they’re comfortable. Since you’re interviewing them for a job not interrogating them for murder, candidates probably aren’t going to break a sweat when they lie, but they might show subtle changes in body language.
Signs to Watch For
There’s a myth that when people are right handed, they look to the right when they’re telling the truth and look to the left when they tell a lie. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Each person is different. Watch for deviations from the baseline in these areas.
- Speech – When people feel nervous their pulse speeds up and sometimes their throat gets tight. Their voice might have a higher pitch when they give an invented response. If they pause frequently or keep clearing their throat, they might be stalling while they try to think of a response.
- Body language – If your candidate was calm for the first part of the interview and they suddenly start shifting in their chair, shuffling their feet or fidgeting with their hands or clothing, pay extra attention to their words. If they were animated for most of the conversation and suddenly become still, that might also signal dishonesty.
- Micro-expressions – Sometimes you see a flicker of emotion that happens so quickly you question if it was ever there in the first place. Learn to trust your gut. If you asked a question and saw a split second of panic, fear, concern or irritation, listen very closely to what comes next.
Keep in mind that it’s natural to be nervous during an interview. When you suspect an untruth, ask more questions until you feel you’ve either given the candidate a chance to talk through their anxiety or give more evidence they’re being dishonest.
Listen to that inner voice that says there might be something going on. Make a note to fact check before you make a final decision.
Honest responses tend to use first person pronouns and be rich in details. When someone is lying, they have to invent their response on the fly. The answer might be vague and use second or third person pronouns as they unconsciously distance themselves from their lie. They also might add qualifiers to make the story seem more impressive than it is. Compare these two responses:
“I once worked for a group of real estate professionals who wanted to improve their online presence. Their mobile load speed was slow, they had old information on their website, data just wasn’t arranged logically. They wanted to be involved in the improvement process. So I sat down with their team. They have this conference room with huge windows and we used those as a work surface. We put all their site elements on post-it notes and used that to make a sitemap.”
That response has first person pronouns and details like the post-it notes that indicate it’s a genuine memory. A dishonest response might be more like this:
“There were these helpful people at a company who really contributed to what was done. They had a lot of ideas for their website redesign, and everyone was super happy in the end.”
The second response is short on details. It uses second person pronouns and qualifiers like “really contributed,” and “super happy.”
Skip the Struggle
At Brelsford Personnel, we have over 30 years of experience helping companies and job seekers find the perfect match. We conduct thorough background and reference checks and we spend time getting to know candidates one-on-one. Hiring strong employees doesn’t have to be a struggle. Get in touch to find out more.