Every human resource executive is well aware of the problems related to reference checking— the seemingly interminable phone tag, the equivocal responses, the difficulty comparing references coming from different referrers of different candidates. But while the task may be onerous, HR
wouldn’t be so discontent if it yielded
meaningful results. Unfortunately, BY LARRY STEVENS
is the bane of many
an HR professional’s
existence. A solution,
checking, is now at hand.
according to every HR executive
interviewed for this story, it doesn’t.
“Reference checking [was]
something we had to do, but it was very
difficult and we weren’t getting much out
of it,” says Michele Hanson, director of
talent acquisition at Novi, Mich.-based
Learning Care Group. Hanson points
out that reference checking is often part
of the state licensing requirements for
some of the 900 childcare facilities her
did help her rule out candidates who
were obviously bad fits for the positions
they were applying for. But as a way of
comparing references to choose the best
candidate, it was rarely effective.
We humans have been trying to separate facts from fictions for
millennia, from today’s latest, highest-tech offerings all the way back to our own
mothers’ unblinking gazes.
And, these days, the tools being used
to ferret out the fibbers from the workplace
are increasingly bringing old-school
methods and new-school science together.
Licensed private investigator and
author Michael A. Coller, who recently relaunched his 7 Signs of Lying book on CD
with a new section on assisting employers
in the interviewing process, says his system
of deception detection is based on good,
“The word ‘honesty’ is an acronym,” he
says, “to help listeners easily remember
the key characteristics of liars as they
fabricate a story. Honesty stands for Hands,
Spotting the Liars
BY MICHAEL J. O’BRIEN/
Talent Management Columnist
Open Posture, Nervous, Eyes, Story, Test
and Ask Why.”
He says the new CD gives detailed
instructions on how to implement the
“Honesty” model and places listeners at
an advantage as they can practice “using
visual imagery” before being face-to-face
with a possible liar.
Meanwhile, Pamela Meyer, author
of the book Liespotting and CEO of
Washington-based consultancy Calibrate,
says her system is based on a “stimulus
response system” that only considers the
first few seconds of a candidate’s response
to a question to be scientifically relevant.
But Meyer also trains others to
“recognize clusters of verbal and nonverbal indicators” in forming an opinion of
what a liar looks like, as—she says—recent
scientific research on the area of deception
has shown that prior views on prevarication
may be misguided.
“When a leakage comes out,” she says,
referring to a verbalized lie, “liars will freeze
their upper body. We think they fidget a lot,
but that’s not scientifically true.”
Meyer says lying candidates may
sometimes curl their feet inward or pick up
and “fiddle with barrier objects” that may
lie on a desk or table between themselves
and the interviewer. But, she adds, the
interviewers themselves might just be the
most effective anti-lying tool of all.