Detecting deception during interviews.

Author:Waltman, John L.
Position:Great Communicators

Knowing how to read nonverbal signals can be an invaluable asset in interview situations.

WHEN AUDITORS need to determine that the data they work with are accurate, they can usually rely on objective tests; but in interpersonal interactions, on-the-spot decisions must frequently be made with little opportunity for immediate objective verification. Nonverbal signals can be valuable tools for auditors, especially in detecting deception while interviewing potential employees and while questioning clients during an audit. Competence in this area can be a distinct advantage; greater ability to gauge the veracity of responses enables the auditor to focus on honest answers and avoid wasting time following false leads.

* "Leakage"

The language of nonverbal behavior suggests meaning, rather than encoding a specific meaning in the way that words and phrases do. The meaning of nonverbal signs varies widely, and a particular gesture may be interpreted in more than one way. An interviewer must take the whole context of the communication situation into account to ensure accurate interpretation.

Researchers have come to recognize several patterns of nonverbal behavior that crop up during deception. The areas that are difficult to control consciously include movement (kinesics), proxemics, and paralanguage. Several experts on nonverbal communication refer to revealing nonverbal cues as "leakage" -- signals that escape from a deceptive interviewee despite his or her attempts at control.

To maximize the auditor's ability to detect leakage during interview situations, he or she must have an unobstructed view of the interviewee. In many interview settings, where the parties are seated on either side of a table, desk, or counter, the interviewer may be limited to observing only facial cues; but the face alone is usually a poor source of evidence for deception, although hand-to-face contacts are often valuable clues. In an optimum situation, the interviewer should:

* Sit facing the interviewee, with no intervening furniture or other obstructions.

* Make sure that chairs don't "hide" the interviewee, so that movement of the hands, torso, legs, and feet will be easy to observe.

* If at all possible, avoid meeting in the interviewee's office, where it will be more difficult to ensure an "observer-friendly" environment.

* Behavioral Baseline

One person's behavior can differ greatly from that of another under identical circumstances, which means that if leakage is...

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