Have you ever met someone and instantly liked and trusted them only to find out later that you had been misled? Have you ever trusted your gut and later discovered that you did not assess someone correctly?

Often, when we lack a well-defined evaluation process for candidates, we can be swayed by unconscious bias, and are unable to sort out fact from fiction in the interview. Also, our training can put us at a disadvantage, and train us to think in a limited and narrow way.

For example, in a single company you assume that every employee has identical attributes, values and performance records. As search consultants, we know each person has strengths and weaknesses relative to every role. You may also consider that a candidate worked with a company in the past that influenced and shaped their behaviors and preferences, but that does not necessarily tell the entire story of the candidate’s work abilities, preferences and attributes.

What you need to become aware of is how your instinct (or intuition) plays into your biases, and how to navigate around that bias. Once you work to identify your internal biases and create awareness of how they influence your opinions and decisions then you are better able to spot “distortion” in the interview process.

I recently heard Phil Maltin, an employment litigator and author, discuss how you can recognize dishonesty in a single conversation – and this can be helpful advice when all you have is a few limited conversations the interview process.

Here’s an overview of what I learned:

  1. Liars are language based – they use specific words and language to explain. Often their stories do not make sense, they don’t use logic when explaining, and their conversations are less structured.
  2. Liars will distance themselves from involvement in the event. They will use less verbal intimacy (i.e. they don’t want to be directly involved) and may even refer to themselves in the 3rd person.
  3. Liars typically use fewer examples or illustrations to describe an event. They may also appear less cooperative and negative. Their actions and behaviors may not be consistent with the stories they are giving you.
  4. People who are close to you and know you have an advantage because you are comfortable with them, these can be the sneaky liars that blindside you with dishonesty.

What can you do to avoid hiring a liar?

  1. Prepare! Plan your questions, know that the information you are looking for is hiding in plain sight.
  2. Know that body language may not always be the tell. Some people will be nervous interviewing and are honest, so don’t hold that against them.
  3. Make a connection with the candidate. Stay open minded, irresistible and unintimidating. Explain why you are asking a question.
  4. Ask follow up questions to understand the details of what the candidate is telling you, you want their story so you can verify it later.
  5. Be humble, and play detective – your goal is to understand their thought process – do not expect to hear the truth right away, but know it will surface in the course of the conversation.
  6. Check references.

References from people who have hired, worked with and reported to this individual are the best sources of information. I prefer to hear from people that provide balanced views, both what the candidate excels at and what they struggle with. We are all works in progress and have some strengths and weaknesses we need to work with.

Great recruiters follow this process when we interview candidates. It is a balance between building relationships and evaluating the strengths and credibility of the person we are interviewing. Also, recruiters have the advantage of interviewing and evaluating a large pool of people with similar skill-sets. We can verify performance and strengths before our clients even speak with the candidate. We like to be the seekers of truth and capability.

Laura and her team specialize in working a very well-defined process to ultimately find you the very best executive talent in life sciences available. We have over 20 years building companies and relationships with the very best in the business.