Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to Spot a Liar

Can you tell when someone is lying to you?

Most parents can tell in a heartbeat when their kids are lying. Maybe it's because we know them so well, or it's written into our DNA, but when they say, "I didn't do it," our radar goes off.

At work, it can be tougher. These are people we may not know that well, although we spend lots of time with them. And yet, it's critical that we be able to spot someone telling an untruth, because their lies and deception could end up impacting not only us, but an entire company.

I once interviewed negotiation expert Harry Mills, and here are some tips that he offered to help spot someone who may be fibbing. While they may not always hold true in every situation, it's worth paying attention to these clues:

* Voice pitch rises, there are increasing pauses or hesitations and speech slows.

* Hand and arm movements don't seem to match up; doesn't use gestures to make a point. May touch nose, chin and mouth more.

* Person avoids eye contact and has a smile that seems forced or insincere.

* Answers more abrubtly or avoids direct answers. May begin to mumble or keep head down more.

* If numbers are mentioned, they are "almost" or "nearly" and are similar: "$30,000" or "30 companies" or multiples of that number.

* Avoids saying "I" or "we". May use phrases such as "to be perfectly honest" or "to tell you the truth."

* Is prone to verbal outburts that leak information.

* Has more "um's", "uh's" and and takes longer to answer questions.

Should you confront someone at work who is lying to you? Why or why not?


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Don't Blow It When the Boss Asks for Your Help in Making a New Hire: How to Ask Great Interview Questions

In my previous post, I wrote about how important it was to make a good impression on everyone you meet when you go for a job interview, because the boss may ask various workers for their opinion about you.

But what if you're one of those employees who is introduced to the job candidate and asked to "chat" with a potential hire? What are you supposed to talk about? The score of last night’s game, the latest technology or if they have a family? You may not be aware of it, but what you talk about may have a big impact on your career.

That's because this little chat may not only be a test for the job candidate, but for you, as well. Not only is the boss looking at how the job candidate performs, but he's also looking at how you handle the situation. Your performance during this interaction can be important if the boss is trying to decide whether it's time you moved on to bigger and better things.

Specifically, if you give an insightful, logical assessment of this person’s skills and the ability to fit into a current culture, then you’ve proved you have another useful job skill that directly impacts the boss and your company's bottom line. But if you blow it, and can't offer the boss anything more substantial than the fact that the candidate likes the Red Sox, then you've failed to take the opportunity to show the boss that you can handle whatever is thrown your way.

So, the next time the boss provides an opportunity for you to interact with a job candidate, be prepared to show that you can rise to the challenge. Here are some points to becoming an effective interviewer:
· Think about what it takes to succeed in the job. If it’s important that the interviewee have strong people skills, then ask about team experience, or how customer complaints are handled. You might even relate a real experience (omit names) that caused problems, and see how the interviewee would handle the situation.
· Ask about past jobs. Find out what the person liked most or liked least about former positions. What was the atmosphere like?
· Inquire about organizational skills. The last thing you need is more work dumped on you because a new hire is disorganized and inefficient. Ask how they make sure they meet targets on time, how they schedule their work, how they decide what they should do every day when they show up for work.
· Find out whether past training or education would be beneficial. Maybe the candidate spent three summers in France and is so fluent in the language that he or she could handle the clients you’ve been having difficulty with in Paris. That might be a key point supervisors would miss, but your inquiries would net this new information.
· Try to avoid “yes” or “no” responses. Don’t ask, “Did you like your last job?” but “Tell me about your last job.”
· Be professional. Greet the candidate with a smile and a handshake, and avoid interruptions. When it’s your turn to talk to an interviewee, it’s best to do it in a quiet place, with no ringing phones or people walking by. Find out how much time you’ve been allotted, then stick to the schedule. This will prevent you from chatting too much in an endless sessions.
· Avoid legal minefields. Ask only job related questions. It’s against the law to ask about sexual preferences, religious affiliations, disabilities, age, race, marital status, child care arrangements, citizenship and memberships. At the same time, do not ask if the person has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, or make any mention of gender.
· Motivating factors. Find out what the candidate sees as their personal motivation: money, creativity, chances for advancement, etc. If the answers don’t fit in with what the company offers, it means that this person would probably become quickly dissatisfied – and you’ll be repeating the interviewing process sooner than you -- or your boss --would like.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Job Interviewing 101

I remember when my older son was just learning to read and write and I found his name written boldly in pen on the white marble of our fireplace hearth.

“Did you do this?” I asked him, pointing to his name.

His big blue eyes looked boldly into mine. He shook his head “no.”

“Then who did?” I asked him.

His chubby little finger quickly pointed at his infant brother, who was happily sucking on his sock as his older brother tried to sell him down the river.

Of course, the written evidence was to the contrary, so my son spent some time scrubbing the fireplace and learning a valuable lesson not only about where and when to write his name, but the consequences of lying. (OK, so I took away “Barney” watching for a week, which was really more of a reward for me.)

After speaking with some hiring managers this week, I think a few of them are feeling like they’re dealing with some 5-year-old children at times who believe they can deny written evidence of their misdeeds.

Specifically, it’s becoming a chronic problem that job candidates lie on their resumes. They’re lying about their education, about their experience and even their references.

Now, while it’s true we try to put a positive spin on our skills and abilities in order to gain the attention of hiring managers, it’s also true that nothing will get you dumped faster from the interviewing process than lying. And, keep this in mind: if it doesn’t catch up with you now, it will later – just look at the former RadioShack CEO who was forced to resign after owning up to the fact that he never received the two degrees listed on his resume.

And, here’s what’s making the problem worse: Job candidates are lying about lying. A survey by DDI found that while 31 percent of hiring managers claim job seekers “misrepresent” their education, only 3 percent of potential employees agree. And though only 15 percent of job seekers admit to using a personal, non-work friend as a reference, 40 percent of hiring managers say it's happening. Almost 70 percent of the businesses surveyed by a professional organization say lying on resumes happens occasionally to frequently, in all kinds of companies.

So, here’s the deal: You’re smart enough to do Internet research on your blind date, your former girlfriend and whether Jamaica is nice this time of year. Do you honestly think a potential employer isn’t going to do a background check on you? Do you really believe that if you say you can fly the space shuttle that someone isn’t going to ask you to take it for a spin to make sure you really possess those skills?

All right, one last thing: nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) executives polled said sending a thank-you note following an interview can boost a job seeker’s chances, but at least half of applicants fail to do so.

The bottom line: Listen to your mothers. Write your thank-you notes and don’t lie. We know what we’re talking about.

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