(3-minute insight)

I’m going to start off with a sweeping statement…everybody lies! However, many of these are the little lies we tell ourselves or others such as:

“I’m almost there!”
“I’m not capable of…”
“Just one more episode” at 3am on a Tuesday (thanks Netflix!)

Like it or not, lying is part of being human. We skilled ourselves as children when “Teddy made that mess not me!” We learned how to conceal the truth for our own benefit by way of protecting ourselves and others. The majority of our little Pinocchio moments are harmless, but when it comes to a candidate not being honest with you during an interview, that’s a problem and one which could have damaging repercussions if gone undetected.
Herein lies another problem…humans are lousy lie detectors!

Even Joe Navarro, former FBI Special Agent and world leading body language expert states in his book ‘What Every Body is Saying’

You might assume that as a career FBI agent, who has at times been called a human lie detector, I can spot deceit with relative ease. Nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, it is extremely difficult to detect deception.”

Joe Navarro

If detecting lies is so difficult, how are you going to tell if a candidate is feeding you porkies during an interview? Unless it’s a blatant blunder like when you hear from their referee that they were sacked for cleaning all the computers with a fire extinguisher and not for “personal family reasons,” then I’m afraid it gets tricky.

There are countless articles on how to spot when a candidate lies in an interview. I have seen resources which state that sudden pauses in speech are indicative of a person fabricating a lie. This could be true, but it could also mean that the person is looking for the best way of phrasing their truthful reply, afterall, they want to present themselves well to you. I have read many such articles and I kept coming back to the same thought – everyone is different but more importantly, candidates get nervous! I feel it would be an injustice to interviewers and jobseekers to provide a litany of lie spotting techniques, because unless you are highly trained and skilled in non-verbal cues, you could be inadvertently prejudicing your candidate by taking such articles at face value. It is for this reason why I have limited potential indicators of deception to just two which, I feel, can be observable during an interview.

You’ve asked a fairly straightforward question but got a reply which would challenge even Tolstoy himself. Whilst giving a long-winded answer is not necessarily an indication of lying, note whether or not your candidate actually answered the question and if they did, at what point? Researchers from Harvard Business School determined that people trying to deceive can stretch the truth with too many words. Since such a lie may involve the candidate shooting from the hip, they may also tend to add excessive detail to convince you (and themselves) of what they are saying. Adding unnecessary detail is a way of deflecting attention. If they have given you more style over content, then your question may have alerted them to a sensitive issue so consider follow-up questions if you feel they are being evasive.

If you have a closed question for your candidate, look for synchrony between their reply and the appropriate head movement. A truthful “yes” should be accompanied with an un-delayed nod of the head. Likewise, a truthful “no” should have the congruency of the head shake, again not delayed. Oftentimes this can be a subtle movement. If you notice they then reverse their head movement after they have answered, it is an indicator they have caught themselves and are attempting damage control! This gesture is likely to be exaggerated to get your attention and will be a delayed response of around one second.

I need to express that in no way am I knocking the science behind non-verbal gestures and deception-detection, quite the opposite, it’s real and it fascinates me. I just feel that it should be well researched and practiced before applying during interviews so that you can fairly evaluate your candidates. Once practiced, deception-detection is an acquired skill with a potentially good payoff when used with your own instincts and could save you some hassle when recruiting your people!

1) ‘What Every Body is Saying’ by Joe Navarro
2) https://www.forensicscolleges.com/blog/resources/10-signs-someone-is-lying