5 ways to tell someone is lying in a job interview

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?

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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Body language expert Tonya Reiman, author of "The Power of Body Language," previously told Business Insider that job candidates should make sure they offer the "appropriate amount of eye contact." 

"If you don't, the interviewer will assume you are either insecure, don't have an appropriate answer for the question being asked, or are being deceptive. Does that mean it's true? No, but perception is everything in a job interview."

Reiman said smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy. 

"It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back. Without the smile, an individual is often seen as grim or aloof," she explained.

This may give the interviewer the impression that you're bored or uninterested in the conversation. Instead, keep your hands on the desk or table, and don't fidget.

In their book "Crazy Good Interviewing," John B. Molidor, Ph.D., and Barbara Parus suggest showing your palms during an interview — since the gesture indicates sincerity — or pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple. which displays confidence, reports Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz.

Reiman previously told Business Insider you should always be aware of your posture.

"People don't realize that the job interview begins in the waiting room, but it does. So don't slouch in the chair in the reception area," she advised. "In order to be perceived as confident, you must sit or stand tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, and chest slightly protruding."

This position changes the chemicals in our brain to make us feel stronger and more confident, and it gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality, she explained.

Playing with your hair, touching your face, or any other kind of fidgeting can be a major distraction for your interviewer. It also demonstrates a lack of power, said Reiman.

This gesture will tell the interviewer you're not comfortable or you're closed off. 

"You should always keep your hands in view when you are talking," Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of "SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and Charisma," previously told Business Insider. "When a listener can't see your hands, they wonder what you are hiding." To look honest and credible, keep your arms uncrossed and show your hands.

"When we touch our faces or hair, it is because we need self soothing,"Reiman explained.

Is that the message you want to send to your interviewer

A weak handshake may tell the interviewer that you're nervous, shy, and that you lack confidence, explains Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, a customer experience consultancy, in a LinkedIn post

Ideally, your handshake should be firm, but not overbearing. "The secret to a great handshake is palm-to-palm contact," Wood told Business Insider. You want to slide your hand down into the web of theirs, and make palm-to-palm contact. Lock thumbs, and apply an equal amount of pressure.

"It's okay to use your hands to illustrate a few important points," writes Lebowitz. "In fact, research suggests that staying too still can give the impression of coldness. 

"But relying too much on hand gestures can be distracting, according to Molidor and Parus."

She says you should remember you're in a job interview, not a theater audition. 

People tend to show their dominating personality by gripping the interviewer's hand and palming it down, but this tells the interviewer that you need to feel powerful, Reiman explained. "Instead, the handshake should be more natural: thumbs in the upward position and two to three pumps up and down."

As the applicant, you should always wait for the interviewer to extend their hand first, she added. 



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?

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.

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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