5 ways to tell someone is lying in a job interview

How to Spot a Liar
How to Spot a Liar

Research shows one third of all resumes contain false information. Logically, it follows that a person who lies on their resume will lie about other things at work. Here are some ways to spot lies before they ruin you.

Research shows that our ability to detect when someone is lying is just as good as an estimate or a guess. Perhaps, this is why lies get past us so often because our guess is that the person is not lying.

For most people, the act of lying elicits several reactions because it takes the brain some time to pause and not tell the truth.

Some of these reactions include an increased stress response (think Brian Williams), a stance of defiance and dominance (think Lance Armstrong), and a covering of true emotions, otherwise known as the truth (think Anthony Weiner).

Wouldn't it be great to know when you are being lied to? Or better yet, that you could get a heads-up before someone starts lying to you?

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Lying is no more evident in public life as it is in everyday job interviews. While we may not be able to immediately detect if someone is lying, there are signs we can look for.

The key is to put our eyes and our ears into play to differentiate fiction from reality.

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When detectives are interrogating a suspect, they start with a set of non-threatening questions and observe the suspect's baseline behavior when answering. Then, they move to a difficult set of questions and observe changes in behavior that are indicative of deception.

For those in human resources management, this could look something like this:

  • Where did you grow up?

  • What are your favorite hobbies?

  • What are your strengths?

Simple enough. No reason to lie.

Next, the manager could ask questions like:

  • What would your last employer say about you?

  • What is the reason you didn't finish college?

  • What are your weaknesses?

A little bit more difficult and a little bit more of a reason to lie especially if their resume doesn't match up.

In the first set of questions, the potential employee will more than likely tell the truth. Then comes the hard part.

Do they pause, avoid eye contact, blink too much, move their feet, touch their face, or act like their thinking with the latter set of questions?

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Breaking Eye Contact

Most people know that lying is wrong. When a liar is lying, s/he will break eye contact to reduce the guilt.

Holding eye contact can be overwhelming for a liar. Lying takes more energy than telling the truth because our brain has to pause and think about a lie to tell.

Conflicting Gestures

Let's say Jack is interviewing for the chief financial officer position of your company. You ask him if he has ever gone bankrupt. He gives you an affirmative "no" while at the same time shaking his head "yes."

Words may be lies, but the internal reactions within the body and brain force our gestures to be more truthful.

Duping Delight

Dr. Paul Eckman coined the phrase "duping delight" to refer to the glee that some people get when they feel they are being successful in manipulating someone else. Lying is a form of manipulation.

With a lie, you may see a micro-expression called duping delight which is a smile that comes across one's face when they feel they are getting away with something (think O.J. Simpson). When you feel someone is lying, look for a slightly suppressed smile.

Overcompensating Language

If you ask a question and the interviewee replies with a short story, then you are in for a few lies. Using too many words can be a sign that the person is hiding something.

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Liars are good at trying to come across as truthful. It is their attempt that gives them away.

Turn Away, Turn Back

Following an answer or response that is less than truthful, liars will look away from you or pretend to be looking for something in a stack of papers or on there phone before returning the glance.

This is a tactic to see if you believe the lie and will move on to the next topic, or if you doubt the lie and will rephrase the question.

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Originally published