The Pre-employment Interview: Creating an Environment Conducive to Truth Telling

Written By: Joseph P. Buckley
Feb 09, 2022

In our November/December Investigator Tip, “The Biggest Mistake We Make When Interviewing Job Applicants,” we discussed the most effective way to develop an accurate reconstruction of an applicant’s work history, including any disciplinary actions, terminations, jobs not listed on the application, falsification of employment dates, etc.

In this Investigator Tip we will detail how to create an environment conducive to truth-telling about all of the areas of inquiry many of us include in our pre-employment interviews in addition to the applicant’s employment history: current criminal behavior, current use of illegal drugs or alcohol during work hours, acts of dishonesty on prior jobs, etc.

The Use of an Introductory Statement

We all understand that job applicants want to present themselves in the most favorable light possible, and that there is an inherent reluctance to disclose information that might be considered negative or suggestive of past undesirable behaviors. Therefore, to create an environment in which the individual is more likely to be open and honest about past transgressions, we encourage interviewers to use an introductory statement the highlights 5 key elements:

  • Nobody is perfect
  • You are expected to be truthful
  • Everything we discuss is subject to verification
  • Any inconsistencies may jeopardize your chance for qualifying for this position
  • The information is only used for job evaluation purposes

Example Introductory Statement

“Jim/Mary What I’d like to do this morning is to review your application with you to make sure that everything is complete and accurate. We are going to talk about a number of things: your employment history; your job skills and abilities; some of the situations that you have had to deal with; and the duties and responsibilities of the position that you are seeking here with us. If you have any questions as we go along, please don’t hesitate to ask me.

Before we get started let me just verify some background information. Could you spell your name for me? What is your current address? How long have you lived there? What is your understanding of the position that you are applying for? (after some discussion re the position, continue)……..

Let me just start out by explaining a little bit about our hiring process. I think that the most important thing for you to realize is that we don't expect you to be perfect. No one is. If we were looking for perfect people, we wouldn’t have any employees. However, we do expect you to be truthful and honest.

I would also like to mention that we are required, as part of the hiring process, to conduct a thorough background investigation. At a minimum we will contact your past employers, and make various record checks, including [insert here the screening procedures that your organization utilizes: Social Security number verification, criminal and civil record check, driving history, verification of education and past employment, drug screening, etc.].

Again, the reason for doing this is not to try to disqualify someone, but rather, it's a way to verify that what a person tells us during the interview is, in fact, accurate.

Also, I don't want you to feel committed to the information that you provided on your written application. It's very common for a person to forget to list a job, or to leave out certain information because the application doesn't give them a chance to explain the circumstances. What is important is that we get that information out now, so that what we find from the background check matches what you tell me here today.

Finally, everything that we talk about here is confidential. We don’t give the information that we develop here to any outside party. Okay?”

The applicant who has not engaged in any significant past job-related acts of dishonesty, current criminal behavior, use of illegal drugs or alcohol during working hours or other undesirable behaviors has no problem or concerns about the process we have described. On the other hand, the individual who has engaged in any of the relevant behaviors is now more likely to be open about their past activities, anticipating that they will be discovered in the background screening process.

If, however, the applicant decides to continue to conceal negative past conduct, it will be more readily apparent in their verbal and nonverbal behavioral cues, thereby indicating when the interviewer should ask follow-up questions.

For more information on effective pre-employment interviewing techniques, we offer a three- hour virtual training program: Hiring the Best: Applicant Interviewing Techniques, as well as an online video training program: The Reid Technique for Pre-employment Interviewing Strategies.

We also have produced 2 DVD training programs: Hiring the Best: Interviewing for Integrity and Hiring the Best : Verifying the Employment Application

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