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How to “Read” an Applicant During a Job Interview

How to “Read” an Applicant During a Job Interview


How to “Read” an Applicant During a Job Interview 

By Derron McDuffee, Via Integrity


job interview 2During the last two DEMA newsletters, we discussed how electronic background checks gives us a false sense of security and the importance of conducting a thorough applicant interview to supplement background checks. Additionally, we discussed how different question techniques would allow the employer to gain insightful information regarding the character and integrity of their prospective hire.

When we interview applicants, we tend to believe what they tell us. We would like to give the benefit of the doubt, but yet our gut may tell us something different. Lets face it; we want to believe what the applicant is telling us is the truth only because it may appear confrontational if we press the applicant for further explanation.

Excluding the verbal content of their answers, applicants will provide you a wealth of information based on their verbal and non-verbal behaviors. Surprisingly, only 7-10% of all communication comes in the form of verbal content. The remainder of communication is derived from non-verbal movements and the tone/pitch of the response. So, if we solely focus on the verbal content of the applicant’s interview responses, we are missing approximately 90% of the information they are communicating to us. There are few interviewers that are expertly trained and educated to recognize truthful and deceptive behaviors. On the other hand, if you had some fundamental knowledge on truthful and deceptive  behaviors, you too can begin to train your intuition making your interviews more effective.


Generally, truthful behavior from applicants include:

           • Direct Yes/No responses to close ended questions
           • Detailed and specific answers to open ended questions

Truthful non-verbal (physical) behaviors from applicants might include:
           • Open body posture

           • Alert, composed, interested, and attentive

Conversely, deceptive verbal responses from applicants might include:
           • Repeating simple questions, lengthy non-specific answers, gives unsolicited compliments

           • Qualifying answers – “To be honest with you…” “To tell you the truth…”

Deceptive non-verbal (physical) behaviors from applicants might include:

           • Moving away from interviewer

           • Closing off body movements (crossing arms and legs, turning to the side)
           • Grooming gestures (cleaning eye glasses, touching their face/beard) 

There are several special considerations to keep in mind when assessing the applicant’s answers. First and foremost, establishing the applicant’s behavioral baseline during rapport building at the beginning of an interview is essential. An applicant’s behavioral baseline is what their verbal and non-verbal responses look and sound like when they answer questions they deem non-threatening to the hiring process. For example, employers can establish a behavioral baseline by asking questions during rapport building like “How was your weekend? What did you do over the weekend?” This is simply referred to as “small talk.” Conversely, look for gross shifts away from the applicant’s behavioral baseline when asking questions they perceive as a possible threat to the hiring process; such as “Tell me about the last time you were let go from a job?”


Another special consideration is how truthful and deceptive an individual communicate. Truthful applicants convey information with their answers while deceptive applicants will try to convince you that what they are telling you is the truth. Be alert if an applicant attempts to convince you that their answer is truthful. 

Important word of caution: When you pick-up on deceptive verbal and non-verbal gestures during your applicant interview, keep in mind it takes multiple deceptive gestures to indicate untruthful behavior. Therefore, do not rely on a single deceptive gesture and instead look for a pattern of deceptive behavior. Assessing an individual’s behavior is difficult. However, by implementing the information given in this newsletter, you will be better prepared to ask follow-up questions when you detect the truth is not being conveyed by the applicant.

In next DEMA Newsletter, Via Integrity will provide you with insight that demonstrates the weaknesses of electronic background checks and the eye opening results of a strong character and integrity assessment. The impact is profound and material to your business or estate team.  


  via integrity logo  

Derron McDuffee 

Co-founder and Chief Integrity Officer 

Click Here to View Full Biography 

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