Is this job candidate lying? It’s trying when your business has vacancies in key positions, and sometimes you might feel tempted to fill the slot with the first available candidate. But you’ve learned (perhaps the hard way) that bad hires are more expensive than no hires. You worry that you might be missing clues that this person in front of you right now isn’t the superstar that his resume claims he is.

Resume versus application information

Your company’s employment application is a complete profile of your prospective employee. She signs it, certifying that the information contained in the application is complete and accurate. While you might have seen it first, the resume is more of a marketing tool, where descriptions of work experience and education are kept brief. If you have both documents prior to the interview, check for consistency between the two.  The application will show employment and education completion dates, so ask questions about any gaps you notice in the dates of employment.

Applicant’s use of detail during the interview

The candidate should be able to answer specific questions about his prior employment experiences. Listen for details that might demonstrate a mastery of the job content. Also listen for over-sharing in response to a specific question. Remember what you did in 6th grade when a teacher asked a question to which you did not know the answer? Often the longest responses are the result of the candidate going all the way around the mulberry bush to search for the answer they think you might be looking for.

There might be a long work history for your applicant, and some of the details about prior jobs might be growing a bit fuzzy. If you ask questions about situation, thought process, action and result you can discern what might be the most important predictors of performance – the candidate’s thinking and his action style.

Body language

Much has been made of the nonverbal code associated with lying. Don’t get hung up on specific behaviors like looking up and to the right, or when the candidate crosses her arms. Body language patterns tend to be characteristic of individuals, and the interviewee’s patterns might be unlike other people you have interviewed.

Instead of decoding against some generalized standard, look for sudden changes in body language as you are talking with your candidate. If you are paying attention you might notice a “micro expression” in response to a question before the candidate resumes her “game face”. Changes in her tempo of speech, flushing, or avoidance of eye contact might indicate stress over your question. These characteristics necessarily indicate that she is telling an untruth.

The relationship

The job interview is a two-way sales process. The candidate is selling you on his fit with your job opening, and you are trying to create a positive initial relationship that will attract the best qualified candidates to your business. If you go too far in the direction of being suspicious about your interviewees you might alienate the high performers that you would like most to bring on board.

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