Uncovering deception during job interviews

An article by By Kate Southam from CareerOne

MOST job interviewers were ill equipped to spot the tell tale signs a candidate was either lying or “not telling the whole story”, according to “human lie detector” Steven Van Aperen.

A former Victorian Police officer who has trained with the FBI, Van Aperen a keynote speaker trains people and organisations around the world in deception discovery techniques.

Speaking to HR managers and recruiters at a seminar in Sydney sponsored by executive search firm Beilby, Van Aperen said that anyone could become a first-rate interviewer with the right training and plenty of practice.

A recent survey carried out by Beilby found 68 per cent of the executives polled admitted to misrepresenting themselves in some way during a job interview.

Beilby chief executive Martin Nicholls said “lies” he had come across during his career included a candidate who claimed to have an masters of business administration from US Ivy League college Princeton when they didn’t offer an MBA program and a candidate who provided his own references using a fake foreign accent.

Van Aperen said common mistakes made by interviewers included moving on to a new question when a candidate had provided a vague answer instead of re-wording their original question and failing to observe body language and other non-verbal cues.

“Employing the wrong person is one of the most costly mistakes a company will ever make and the person best able to tell you the truth about a candidate is sitting right in front of you during a job interview,” Van Aperen said.

“The more educated and fluent a person is with language the better they are at lying,” Van Aperen said. “Research also tells us that females make better liars than men.

Women use about 10,000 words a day to the average 2,000 words a day used by men.”

“No matter how good a liar someone is there will always be some form of leakage or physical display,” Van Aperen said.

“One of the mistakes interviewers make is to spend too much time looking down at their notes instead of at the candidate because 80 per cent of communication is non- verbal,” he said.

Hand to face gestures, tugging at an ear lobe or nose, looking away from the interviewer or changing body language such as shifting in a chair or the crossing of arms could all be clues. Van Aperen said such gestures are only suspicious if they “deviate from the norm”.

“Candidates should be observed from the moment they arrive to establish what is their norm. What do they do with their hands, their feet, how do they speak?” he said.

He said only one part of the brain was involved in recalling a truthful event but three parts of the brain were involved in fabricating an event. This meant it took a great deal more effort to lie than it did to tell the truth leading to tell down signs such as pauses in speech, changing tenses in mid-speech and even avoiding personalising answers with words like “I” or “me”.

Lying also usually resulted in a faster heart rate, increase in blood pressure, emotional sweating and changed breathing. Speech could suddenly speed up or the number of “ums and errs” could increase markedly.

Other methods of candidate deception could include evasive or dismissive answers, or vague or generalised statements rather than by specific personalised answer.

“For example, I once asked a candidate why he had left his last job and instead of saying ‘I left because …’ he told me, ‘A number of people were made redundant’. It turns out he had been fired for stealing so he was being evasive,” Van Aperen said.

Van Aperen also trains journalists, barristers and more recently financial analysts. “Top firms in Hong Kong and London have flown me in to train their analysts on how to interview CEOs to extract accurate information from them,” Van Aperen said.

He said while analysts had the job of uncovering accurate information, corporate chiefs were focused on presenting the most positive picture possible to ensure analysts recommended their stock to brokers.

To have Steve speak at your event visit the contact page at www.stevevanaperen.com

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