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5 Ways to Spot a Liar in an Interview

By James Ball | Feb 25, 2013 | No comments

We all know the terrible consequences of employing the wrong person into your business.  As well as the cost in poor performance and the threat of losing customers, you will have also wasted precious resources in onboarding.

And then there is the dent in morale it could have on the rest of your staff.

When you decide that the time has come to ditch the deadwood and starting recruiting a replacement, you will want to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes again.  After all, bad apples always lie in an interview, far more often than a credible candidate ever would.

So, what can you do to spot a liar in a job interview?  I’ve listed 5 tips below which should help you spot if you have a Pinocchio in your midst:

Spot a Liar in an Interview: 1. Think you know how to spot a liar?  Think again!

There is a common misconception that a liar would find it hard to look you in the eye.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Most liars will look you in the eye, often a little too long for comfort.  This is because they are also under the misconception that a liar wouldn’t make eye contact, so they usually overcompensate with a bit of a glare.

Spot a Liar in an Interview: 2. Ask very detailed questions

Psychologists call it the truth bias; this is when interviewers will unconsciously turn a blind eye to an answer from a candidate even when they know that person is telling a fib.

An interviewer will do this to avoid the anxiety and potential conflict of confronting the liar in the interview.  But if you want to avoid recruiting a dud, then this is where you have to delve deeper and not let a candidate off the hook.

You need to ensure that you have prepared for the interview thoroughly and have studied the candidate’s CV.  Make sure you question them about their gap in the employment, reasons for leaving jobs, and perhaps most importantly, ask tough questions about their career achievements.

Spot a Liar in an Interview: 3. Have a colleague with you

It can be very difficult to concentrate on an interview whilst also looking for obvious signs of deception.  A second opinion is invaluable, so try to have a colleague with you in the interview whose job is it look for excessive discomfort, poor answers and obvious lies.

If they do notice something, give them permission to interrupt and question the candidate.  However, you need to ensure that you don’t confuse normal interview anxiety with signs of lying.

Spot a Liar in an Interview: 4. Body language and non-contracted words

This may sound obvious, but if a candidate is trying to emphasise their honesty by stating something like, “I swear on my mother’s life”, it usually means they are a liar.  You should also look out for formal, no-contracted words such as “did not”, rather than “didn’t”.

Another tell-tale sign of a liar is when they avoid using people’s names in an interview.  This is a method of distancing themselves from someone who might expose them.  So, if you are in an interview, be wary of a candidate who seems uncomfortable if you ask them for their line manager’s name or when you ask for someone who can verify something they have said.

Spot a Liar in an Interview: 5. Have some unexpected questions up your sleeve

Most liars I have interviewed have always been diligently rehearsed.  If you throw a curve ball in and ask a liar to re-tell a story, but in reverse order, most liars will become panicky and won’t be able to.  Those that tell the truth won’t be particularly fazed and will be able to re-tell the story, albeit in a bit of a muddled way, but shouldn’t show obvious signs of anxiety.

Spotting a liar is just one important element of non-verbal communication that could mean the difference between recruiting the right people into your business or taking on a dud.

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