When you’ve processed as many background checks as I have, you start seeing a pattern in the lies applicants tell when filling out an application.
Sure, we all tell little white lies on occasion but to employers, dishonest employees are more than just an annoyance, they can be a costly liability.
Being able to spot a lying candidate, can be an insightful tool for making the most out of the interview process.
The study of body language in human interactions can help you become more proficient at detecting deceit.
These 5 tips can help you get started with developing your people reading skills.
Establish a baseline
Before you officially start the interview, you should build a picture of the candidate’s baseline behavior. This is the reference point you will use to assess them. Keep in mind that nervousness is quite common during interviews and pay close attention to what else is normal for this person. Is
sweating profusely normal for him? Is he a generally quiet or talkative person? Get a feel for their personalities and mannerisms and establish that as their normal behavior.
Begin with simple questions like, “how is the weather out there today?” and “where do you live?” watch how their posture, facial expressions and eyes react and how their voices sound when giving truthful answers.
Next ask a question that requires some thinking but not lying. For example, you can pretend to be annotating their file and ask “what was the address at your last job, do you happen to remember it?”
Take careful note here as they answer. It is normal for people to look off to one side, or scrunch up their forehead when they are thinking. As before, take notice of how their eyes, posture, faces, limbs and voices react as they think, answer, and then relax.
This is the applicant’s baseline. The behavior they express when being truthful.
Watch the Eyes
The eyes, can tell a lot about a person. Although you should take care not to come off as a creepy starer, covertly watch the candidate’s eyes for any changes inconsistent with their baseline behavior. Do they usually look to the left while thinking but all of a sudden they’re staring unblinking at you when asked a specific question? Do their eyes frantically dance in the head? They may be coming up with a lie.
Posture and Movement
Studying a person’s body language can tell you a lot about their personality and emotional state. Look out for the following sudden changes in body language in response to your questioning.
● Squirming too much
Although a common sign of anxiety, sudden restlessness in response to a question probably means you’ve hit a nerve. If the matter was a big deal, you will want to bring it again later and see if you can get to the bottom of it or to see if it elicits any more red flags.
● Freezing up
If the squirming candidate suddenly goes stiff, it might be an attempt to control their shiftiness and appear more convincing.
● Shuffling feet
The feet seem to have a mind of their own. Feet that don’t stop moving are feet that are urgent to flee.
● Covering up
When people lie they unconsciously feel the need to protect certain parts of their body. Most commonly the stomach, mouth and neck. Crossing the arms over the trunk or touching the mouth or neck, and even biting or chewing on the lips may be a sign of something to hide.
Voice and speech
The effect of telling a lie may show itself plainly as changes in tone of voice and speech pattern. Specially watch out for:
● Tone that changes suddenly
If the candidate’s voice suddenly gets higher and shrill, you can be sure their heart rate has suddenly spiked. Your question has made them nervous. Make a point to pursue it further after allowing them a chance to get back to normal.
● Pauses in speech
Lies often come out slower than truth due to the time it takes for the brain to manufacture a lie. Liars often try to buy time to formulate an answer by repeating your question back to you, or with “That’s a great question!”
● Throat clearing
When faced with a difficult question the candidate’s throat and mouth may become very dry and they may be unable to continue speaking without some swallowing and throat clearing.
● Too much information
Liars will often use an excess of information to come across as open while at the same time distracting you from your question.
● Separating themselves
If an interviewees begins dropping “me”, “my” and “I” right out of their sentences, or start talking about themselves in the third person, they are probably lying. Liars may also disassociate themselves from their lies by bringing up other people into their tall tales.
Repeating sentences can be an attempt to convince you and even themselves of their lie.
Trust your instincts
Have you noticed how sometimes you just have a funny feeling that someone isn’t trustworthy? That is your built in defense mechanism speaking. We all have a pretty reliable internal lie detector, so if something doesn’t sound or look right, listen to your gut feeling and question them in detail. Push back and cross examine until you either uncover the lie, or are satisfied with the truthfulness of the information.
Remember though, there are those that have mastered the art of deceit so well that they would fool even the most experienced interrogators. But those are pathological liars and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you end up being fooled by them. Thankfully, they are the exception and not the norm.
Ultimately, any people reading skills you develop in your efforts to choose the best candidates, will be much more effective when coupled with sound judgment. Trust your instincts and you will be sure to make the right decisions.