Liar Liar Pants on Fire

We invested a lot of time, effort and energy, supporting a candidate through an interview process a few months back.  It’s standard operating procedure for us.  We want the candidates we work with to know we are invested in them.

The candidate had already been through 3 rounds of interviews and was scheduled to fly to an out of market location to participate in a shift observation.  This is a common step in the interview process.  It’s designed to be an introduction day where the candidate and the company can get a better feel for what real life in the restaurant looks like.

We spoke with the candidate the night before he was scheduled to travel.  He was excited, and a little nervous, but well prepared and well capable of winning the upcoming interview/visit.  The next day, we received a call from the company’s Vice President of Recruiting.  She wanted to know why the candidate never arrived for his interview.

We were shocked.  We called multiple times, left voice messages, emails, and texts.  It seemed to be so out of character.  After 3 days of no communication, we received a call from the candidate.  He described a horrific accident.  He was on his way to the airport to head out to his interview when a car suddenly veered across 3 lanes of traffic and slammed into him.  He fought to maintain control, but hit the railing.  He said he was fortunate to survive.  His car was mangled and he was hurt, but very glad to be alive.  As a result of what he had been through, he decided he did not want to continue the interview process.

We were happy to hear he survived, but something just seemed odd.  The reasons he wanted to leave his present job hadn’t changed.  And, besides that, what were the chances an accident happened on the day he was supposed to go to an interview?

Then, we got a call from a mutual contact, someone that also knew the candidate, and he shared there wasn’t in a car accident at all.  The candidate just got up and didn’t feel like going, so he concocted a lie as an excuse.  There was no damage to his car, and he was back at his present job the day after the supposed accident.  (Another shining example of how great relationships often yield great information.)

The lengths people go to, to lie and cover the lie, never cease to amaze.
Recruiters are naturally inquisitive, but we’re also extremely skeptical.  We’ve heard tons of excuses, and many of us have studied non-verbal communication to help determine what is truthful and what isn’t.  No single behavior can be relied on as an accurate indicator of deception, but clusters of signals can be identified.  Changes in physical behavior, coupled with a rise in the pitch of a person’s voice may indicate stress, which can mean the person is being deceptive.

Following are some behaviors that when demonstrated in response to probing questions often indicate people are lying:

  • Perspiring and gulping
  • Touching the nose or covering the mouth excessively
  • Rubbing eyes, forehead or neck
  • Nodding in a manner that is inconsistent with the answer given (e.g. person says “no” but nods in an affirming way)
  • Increased blink rate, fidgeting or shuffling
  • Avoidance of physical contact

No single behavior should disqualify any candidate from employment consideration.  However, skilled interviewers can increase the likelihood of successful hiring by paying attention to all the clues in totality.  There are always a few more questions that can be asked if there is any uncertainty.

For more on this topic, read “The Black Book of Lie Detection” by Martin Soorjoo at

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