[3-minute insight]

Do candidates lie and how can you tell? Spoiler alert…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. Furthermore, one which could have damaging repercussions if gone undetected. There is a caveat though…

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 your candidates lie during an interview? Unless it’s a blatant blunder like when you discover they were sacked for cleaning all the computers with a fire extinguisher and not for “personal family reasons”, then it gets tricky.

There are countless articles on how to spot when candidates lie during an interview. Resources which suggest that sudden pauses in speech are indicative of a person fabricating a lie. This could be true, but it could also mean they’re looking for the best way of phrasing a truthful reply. Afterall, they want to present themselves well to you.

What’s important to remember is that everyone is different and candidates get nervous. It would be an injustice to hiring managers and jobseekers to provide a litany of lie-spotting techniques. Unless you’re highly trained and skilled in non-verbal cues, you’re inadvertently at risk of prejudicing your candidates by taking such articles, claiming how to detect porky-pies, at face value.

It is for this reason why only two potential indicators of deception have made this article.

1) A Bad Case of TMI

Imagine that 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 a lie may involve a candidate shooting from the hip, they could add excessive detail to convince you (and themselves) of what they’re saying.

Adding unnecessary detail is a way of deflecting attention. If they’ve given you more style over content, then your question may have alerted them to a sensitive issue. In this case, consider follow-up questions if you feel they are being evasive.

2) Synchrony

If you’ve asked your candidate a closed question, look for synchrony between their reply and the appropriate head movement.

A truthful “yes” should be accompanied with an undelayed nod of the head. Likewise, a truthful “no” should have the congruency of a 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’s an indicator they’ve 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.

If all this sounds difficult, that’s because it is. Lie-spotting isn’t something to be taken lightly or with a wing-it approach. Deception-detection should be well researched and practiced before applying to interviews so that you can evaluate your candidates fairly and justly without bias. It’s an acquired skill with a potentially good payoff, when used with your own instincts, and could save you some hassle if you suspect your candidates lie.

Samantha Lynne
I help business owners & hiring managers streamline candidate interviews to make right-first-time hires for the long-term.

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