Indonesia Anonymus

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

As part of our work (the 16-hour-day that we have been doing for the past few weeks), we needed to recruit some people to work for the new project we setup. This is a supervisory position, where the selected individuals would oversee a team of 10-25 people, so understandably we are looking for people with some experience in managing people. We of course did not do the recruiting on our own. We relied on our recruiting agency, who would advertise it and did the preliminary selection. They then came up with a list of candidates, and we would then together with the agency, set up time with the candidates for yet another interviews with us.

Not long ago, some of us watched Prof. Robert Winston's documentary on the BBC. (Yes, to young readers who prefer MTV, let us remind you that we are most likely a lot older than you are, and trust us, as you get older, documentaries will get more appealing. That and gardening show...). It is about the human mind. Pretty much explaining how our brain works and all. It was a good documentary. But there is one thing we found particularly interesting: a segment about how to spot a liar.

Presumably our brain reacts differently when we are telling the truth and when we are lying, and because of that, we behave differently as well. How interesting.

So we thought, since we were going to have the interviews anyway, we would give it a try. Surely we all have "bent the truth" somewhat during job interviews. We know we did (to certain extent, of course). After all, if you want the job, you must act like you know how to do the job.

We will not tell you everything Prof. Winston said about how to spot a liar, but we will tell you two. (The rest you can probably watch it on the DVD or something. We don't want the BBC to chase us for spoiling their show...). We could not remember exactly how Prof. Winston described it, so here it is in our own words:


  • Watch the hands. When we tell the truth, we are more animated. We move our hands more, trying to describe the story we are telling. When we are lying, the hands do not move as much, or worse, do not move at all.


  • Watch the "I" and "Me" in the sentence. When we are telling the truth, there will be more "I", "My", and "Me" in the sentence than when we are lying. When we lie, we distance ourselves from the story and the "I" and "Me'" are dropped along the way.



For you who are psychologists, professional recruiters or head-hunters, this probably is not new. But for us, this is really interesting.

Now this is how the method got into the picture of our recruiting activity:
We would like to make sure the candidates really have good experience in managing people. We know that in interviews facts can get a bit exaggerated, and numbers tend to get inflated. If say in the past an individual had managed a team of 5 people, then he/she could say it's a team of 10, or 15. We would not know, and there is now way we can check. Time to give Prof. Winston's recipee a try.

So we decided, as part of the interview, that we will ask the interviewees to tell 2 stories.
The first story would be about something that they love. Their kids, family, hobby, hometown, sport. Anything that they love. We thought when it comes to something you love, you would not need to lie. You don't need to exaggerate how cute your kids are. They already are the cutest in the world!
We would watch the hands, and watch the "I" and "Me" and "My".

The second story would be about a typical day at work, when they are managing their team. We would then see if there is any drastic change in the behavior.


Did it work? Did we spot the liars?
Well, it helped. But we still could not be 100% sure and certainly could not based our decision on that.

To make the story short, in the end we crossed-out some candidates and selected our men (and women).
It would be unfair to say that our decision is based solely on the experiment, because it was a long interview and the story-telling thing is just a small part of it.
But it is interesting to know that there are certain indicators you can watch for to spot a liar.

Some of us would be skeptical and say "Well, That works only with bad liars. if the person is a good liar , or worse, a pathological liar, you wouldn't be able to tell."

Very true.
But then again, good liars wouldn't be interested in the jobs we offered.

They would rather be in politics.

3 Comments:

Blogger treespotter said...

well.. yeah, and the better ones are all very much occupied already.

of course, they would lie, even when they're not employed. and we'll never know, do we?

9:48 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Interesting post! Well done with the experiment. Good luck for the next steps of finding one person who fits perfectly for the job :-) You guys are very adventurous over here....bravo.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Luke said...

Cool! Wish I knew it few months ago, then I would have been in politics. A good one! :))

9:33 AM  

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