PrincePerelson & Associates

The Art of Truth-Seeking: 5 Tactics to Uncover Deception in Job Interviews

Interviewing candidates is your opportunity to learn all you can about them, their skills, and their past experience. How much of what they tell you is true? We’d be lying if we told you that most interviewees are completely honest. In fact, that opposite is closer to the truth. Most people you interview will lie to you. And if we are being completely honest, most people have a very logical reason to do just that.

If job candidates took the same oath before an interview that witnesses take before testifying in court, the truth might just sink them all. Small embellishments here, little omissions there, and downplaying the right details can polish a person into a strong candidate. Their carefully crafted story sounds much more appealing than the cold, hard facts about what happened during their last project.

In many cases, these small details may not make a material difference. However, significant lies can lead you to hire a candidate that is a poor fit, is not prepared for the position, or lacks the skills to do the work. These repercussions can be damaging to your organization. Thus, determining when a candidate is spinning a tale during an interview is a vital skill to develop.

Our professional job recruiters have many years of experience spotting lies during interviews and can help you hire confidently for any position. But for those looking to hone their own recruiting skills, here are the top five ways to spot a lie.

1. Get to Know Your Candidate

The board game industry has made a fortune on games that require you to lie or deceive your opponent. If you’ve ever played against someone you know well, you know how easy it can be to catch them in their attempts to lie. Perhaps, it’s the way they move their eyes or fidget with their watch. While there are behaviors that are generally associated with lying, a person displaying one of these behaviors is not necessarily being untruthful.

The beginning of an interview is the time to get to know the expressions, movements, and reactions that come naturally to the candidate. Start by asking them a question that the person is unlikely to lie about but might have to think about before answering. You could ask how long they have lived in their current location or what was the first concert or sporting event they attended.

Watch what they do as they ponder their response and deliver their answer. These behaviors should be a good indicator of how they act and move when answering questions truthfully. If you spot significant deviations as they respond to questions later in the interview, it is a red flag. You should probe deeper into those answers.

2. Trust Yourself

The real world is the perfect training ground for us to learn to spot deception. Consciously or not, we all make judgments about who we can and cannot trust based on our observations. If something feels off about a candidate or their answer seems like a stretch, you may be right. However, your own intuition should not be your only tool. Just because something sounds wrong or different does not mean it is false. Asking follow-up questions can help reveal all the facts and uncover the truth.

To avoid injecting your own bias into hiring decisions, personal feelings should be balanced by processes and procedures. Following a standard hiring and interviewing process ensures all candidates have the same experience and opportunity.

3. Ask for More

Candidates with the right experience and skills are happy to share their accomplishments with you when asked. Not wanting to appear unqualified, those who are lacking may attempt to provide you with appealing tales of their success. Often you can distinguish these tall tales from the real thing by the lack of details included.

Candidates struggling to come up with a real-life example of a time when they exhibited leadership or overcame an obstacle are likely to speak in broad terms. Their vague responses should tip you off. They may also choose second or third-person pronouns rather than first-person pronouns. Asking these candidates to provide more detail can provide you with the clarity you are looking for. However, it may also guide them to fill in the gaps in their tale.

Instead, try using silence to keep them talking. As uncomfortable as silence can be for a nervous candidate, it is more uncomfortable for a candidate who is lying. An untruthful candidate may try to fill the uncomfortable silence with more vague descriptions or embellishments, eventually tipping their hand.

4. Watch Their Body Language

Lie detectors operate on the principle that when people lie, the body responds. For all but the most callous and experienced liars, this principle holds true. While your ability to detect deception may not rival a lie detector that watches a person’s respiratory and heart rate while they talk, you can probably spot more than you think.

Many of the classic signs a person is lying, including an elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, or fidgeting, can be poor indicators of a lie in an interview. Interviews make people nervous, leading them to exhibit many of the same characteristics as a person attempting to lie to you. The key to spotting the less honest answers is to look for deviations from the norm. If a candidate suddenly starts to fidget or avoid eye contact, that change is a good indicator that their answer may not be completely accurate. Watch for changes in any of the following:

  • Eye movements in a different direction or staring at the floor
  • Changes in speech, such as pausing, stuttering, using third-person pronouns, or talking too much
  • Suddenly fidgeting more or less than before or shuffling their feet
  • Covering up their mouth, neck, abdomen, chest or crossing their arms

5. Verify Their Story

A candidate’s story begins with their resume and continues through the interview process. If their resume has gaps or their interview responses don’t match what you saw on their LinkedIn profile, it is vital to resolve the discrepancy. Ask the candidate if they can account for these differences. Calling one of their references to ask about past job experience or performance is also an excellent tool to verify claims.

If you need help to hire an honest and qualified candidate for your organization, consider contacting experts at a Utah recruiting firm. They can help you weed through the embellishments and omissions in your search for the ideal candidate.