Myths About Reading Body Language

Businessman holding a pen between his hands

Having conducted more than 6,000 hiring interviews, I’ve naturally studied body language and I’ve read a lot of articles that say indications of lying are when the candidate:

  • looks away,
  • speaks in a soft voice,
  • speaks rapidly, or
  • gives long-winded answers to questions.

Not necessarily true!  Some people look away all the time when talking with someone.  And some people just speak with a soft voice all the time.  And we all know people who always speak rapidly or always give very long answers to questions.

Suspect that someone is hiding something or lying when their normal speaking style changes suddenly.  Be suspicious when the candidate with generally poor eye contact suddenly stares at you (to try to see if you register suspicion), or the loud voice suddenly becomes a whisper, or if rapid fire answers morphed into short answers, or if long answers suddenly become short.

Then what do you do?  When you suspect the interviewee is lying or hiding something, be calm and stay on the topic by asking, “Could you explain that in more detail,” “Tell me more about that,” or “Give me an example of that.”  As a last resort, confront the issue:  “Pat, your eye contact has been good and you’ve answered questions thoroughly and with a strong voice … until we got to your job at Acme.  Talking about that job your eye contact has declined, your answers much shorter, you’re your voice has been much quieter.  Something happened at Acme – what was it?”

For more interviewing tips and techniques, download our free Topgrading eGuide, “How to Avoid Costly Mis-Hires”.

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