Pre-Employment Interviewing Strategies for Beginners

By:  WZ Contributor

The Pre-employment Integrity Interview plays a critical role in selecting the best candidate. Personality and skills aside, the individual must have an honest background. This particular interview provides an insight that none of the other screening tools do.

Shortcomings of Other Screening Techniques
The criminal history record check determines whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime. The results are unreliable, because this check assumes that a person who commits a crime is apprehended and then convicted. It also assumes that the search is conducted in the venue where the records are on file. Reference checks are equally untrustworthy. A previous employer may not know or tell the truth about an applicant’s honesty. Paper-and-pencil honesty tests are useful because they address the applicant’s attitude toward honesty. If a person thinks honestly, he or she is less likely to steal than the person who thinks like a thief.

These screening methods attempt to predict future performance based on past history or on attitude. Whereas, the loss prevention interview gathers information from the person who knows most about the applicant’s life–the applicant himself or herself. This structured interview questions the applicant about past behavior that may influence future performance on the job. The interviewer relies on the subject’s responses to make the correct hiring decision.

The basic difficulty when interviewing is that the applicant may employ lies of omission, fabrication, exaggeration, minimization or simple denial to gain the position. Because the applicant provides his or her own resume or application, the interviewer has no way to contradict the information. The applicant must be presumed to be telling the truth unless something indicates the contrary. People believe that they are good at detecting deception. However, studies have shown trained police officers and college students to have about the same ability in this regard.

The ability to detect lies also depends on our natural suspiciousness and the type of lie the applicant tells. In a loss prevention interview, the applicant’s behavior drives the questioning of his or her background. Recognizing deception is made possible because the interviewer knows the applicant’s normal behavior. How does the interviewer come to know this?

The interviewer must, in the early stages of the interview, confirm information that is known to be true and observe the verbal and physical responses of the applicant. These observations become the baseline behavior for the applicant’s truthful response under the given set of circumstances. Changes in the applicant’s responses, verbal or physical may indicate attempted deception.

Attend our Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) webinar, “The Hiring Dilemma: Who’s Telling the Truth?” for guidance, so you can choose the best possible candidate to fill an open position. Click here to review a complete list of WZ webinar offerings.

Establishing the Behavioral Normal
The interviewer asks questions to which the applicant will respond truthfully. This begins to establish the behavioral norm. The types of questions used during this segment of the interview explore basic biographical information. The applicant is asked to recall as well as create information. These questions enable the interviewer to observe the applicant in both recall and creative modes. By observing the speech pattern and physical characteristics of the applicant as he or she responds, the interviewer can identify the subject’s strategies for deception.

5 Types of Lies
Applicants may choose to lie in various ways. Verbal clues to deception depend on the type of deception attempted. There are five types of lies: denial, omission, fabrication, exaggeration, and minimization. For more information on these five types of lies, click here to view Wayne Hoover, CFI explain these five types of lies.

Pauses of Deception
Interviewers may recognize unusual delays in the response to questions of simple fact recall. Most of us can quickly recall certain information (e.g., our date of birth) from memory without pausing. A delay would probably indicate an attempt at deception, because we would need time to check the information against the rest of the story or to consider it in relation to the lies we have chosen to tell. Liars need time to assess their exposure to the detection. Truth tellers do not, because they are simply recalling a memory linked to truth.

However, simply delaying an answer does not always mean a lie is about to be told. The interviewer must consider the response based on the question asked. If the question is, “Tell me who was the best supervisor you ever had and the reasons why?” a delay would certainly be appropriate. If the applicant had several jobs and supervisors, it will take time to recall each one and make a selection. On the other hand, a delay in answering the question, ” Have you ever been fired from a job?”, probably indicates deception. The question calls for a simple yes or no response. A delay indicates weighing of the pros and cons of an affirmative or negative response.

Repeating the Question
Some interviewers focus on the suspects who repeat questions before answering. This practice may or may not indicate lying. It depends on the topic, type of question and the context in which it is asked. When applicants are asked, “Have you ever been fired from any of the jobs you listed on your application?”, an immediate truthful denial would be anticipated. An applicant attempting deception needs time to review his or her exposure and decide whether to admit to being fired or not. Repeating the question provides a delay to make the decision.

Asked what their most challenging work assignment was, however, applicants need time to review all the listed jobs and may repeat the question simply to fill the silence before answering. Behavior, both verbal and physical, varies tremendously.

Interpreting Physical Behavior
While we are all very conscious of the words we use, we are less aware of the physical behavior that accompanies them. The physical behavior modifies and emphasizes words sometimes completely changing their meaning. Body positions and movements that respond to the environment reflect our innermost feelings.

The stress we feel when discussing an uncomfortable topic is often reflected by the movements to form a protective barrier. In general, when people are not concerned about a topic their arms and legs are left uncrossed and they look relaxed. When stress rises they tend to close physically crossing their arms and legs to defend the stomach area. The abdominal region is vulnerable and we feel the need to protect it when threatened. Therefore, when an applicant maintains an open body position when questioned about his biographical information, but closes physically when he is asked about his job history, it may possibly indicate a concealment of derogatory information. Many people also avoid eye contact with their questioner when attempting deception. As discussed earlier there may be numerous reasons why truthful people will avoid eye contact but deceivers are almost always reluctant to make eye contact because of the fear of detection.

Some behaviors observed during the interview may be due to simple nervousness. However, nervous applicants generally become more comfortable as their interviews progress. Deceptive applicants, in contrast, often display tension in their muscles, resulting in jerky movements that appear mistimed. Their words and movements must be made consciously, which results in a timing problem. These behaviors, along with many other movements, give the interviewer direction during the loss prevention interview. The key is to watch for timing and consistency of physical behavior as measured against applicant’s normal actions.

Attend our microexpression training course to enhance and strengthen your ability to detect when someone is lying. For a course description or to register, click here.

Establish Organizational Standards
Loss Prevention Interviews rely on past performance to predict future performance. Those who have misbehaved in the past are more likely to do so in the future. Organizations should establish standards for each category of background so that everyone is judged by the same rules. Deciding what level of behavior is acceptable and setting standards falls to the management team.