7 Ways to Spot When Someone is Lying During an Interview

July 5th, 2019

Is your candidate blowing smoke or trying to sell you on skills, talents and a work ethic that aren’t quite what they seem? If you think you may be hearing a lot of sizzle but not seeing any steak, here are a few ways to confirm your hunch and move forward.

Implausibility plus urgency

Implausibility alone isn’t necessarily a sign of lying. Plenty of candidates have accomplishments that seem unusual or career-growth timelines that seem very short (personal assistant to senior manager in just five years?) and over-the-top claims are true more often than you might think. Urgency, a desperate demeanor or a rapid, aggressive speech pattern are also not signs of trouble on their own. But if you see all these things at the same time, the claims in question deserve a closer look.

Vague statements with no follow-up

“I led the entire team on that proposal” is a claim that sounds excellent. But then what happened? What were the circumstances? Did the candidate face any special challenges or learn any interesting lessons during that episode? If the claim appears to stand alone and getting more information feels like pulling teeth, something may be wrong.

A seemingly perfect track record or an unwillingness to recognize failure.

Strong candidates embrace their failures and understand how these episodes brought them where they are today. Questionable candidates claim to have unblemished records and see failure as something that only happens to losers—something that has never, ever happened to them. Ironically, “perfection” is a huge red flag.

Inconsistencies.

Feel free to ask questions if you hear claims, timelines or statements that conflict with others you heard earlier.

A one-sided dialogue.

Conversations always feel a bit suspect when the words flow in only one direction. If your candidate can’t change his setting from “transmit” to “receive” and you feel like you’ve been cornered by a relentless guest at a bad party, you may be on the receiving end of misinformation. Does he ever ask you any questions? Does he wait for your answer? Does he really understand and listen to your words as you speak? Or does he seem to be on stage performing a one-man show? Performers, bad conversationalists, and con artists often have one thing in common: issues with believability.

Anger

Don’t trust candidates who show anger or poor emotional control during a job interview.

Thin or ambivalent references

Be suspicious if your candidate offers few references, unreachable references, no references or references who give neutral, unenthusiastic support.

For more on how to get the most out of your candidate interviews and select only the best employees for your team, turn to the pros at PSU.

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