More Clues That May Red Flag Lies: Part 2 of a Calibre Series on Deception

By Calibre Press  |   Sep 16, 2020

In the first installment of this series we shared the first eight of 16 words & phrases that can help you spot attempts at deception during interviews. Here are the other eight…

9. Non-reflective denial of knowledge.

Phrases to watch for that are given without pause: I don’t remember. I can’t seem to recall at this time. Not to my knowledge. I guess not. I doubt it. Not that I can remember. I’m just going off what I remember at this time. All that I can remember is… Not to the best of my recollection.

Typically, when people are trying to remember something they pause before they say, “Not that I can remember.” Something to watch for when interviewing a subject is an answer like this given immediately after the question without pause for reflection. If you get an answer like this, consider that the person possibly hasn’t tried remembering. Perhaps they’re just saying they don’t remember so you’ll move on. In reality, they may very well know the answer to the question but don’t want to give it to you.

10. Maintenance of dignity.

Phrases to watch for: I wouldn’t dignify that question with an answer. What kind of question is that to ask me? I don’t like the implications of that question. That’s ridiculous. That’s an offensive question. I’ve got better things to do than answer a question like that.

Here, a person answers your question with an assertation that what you’ve asked is offensive to him. An example might be if you ask someone, “Did you steal any of the computer equipment from the office?” and they reply, “I’m the manager. What kind of question is that to ask me?” It’s possible that the person really does believe that this is an offensive question, even if it was asked in a non-offensive manner. However, it’s also quite possible that the person is feigning offense in an attempt to make you uncomfortable, possibly hoping that you will apologize and move on. Don’t fall for this. The answer to the question is a simple yes or no. You might respond, “I’m sorry that question offended you, but I need you to give me an answer.” Then watch for other evasive responses that might follow or nervous body language cues. If you hear or see any, keep digging.

11. Projection.

Phrases to watch for: A person would have to be crazy to do that. Only a sicko would do that. Whoever did this has got a real problem. The person who did this must be on drugs or something. You would have to be a real jerk to steal something. Sounds like this person is a nut. The guilty person really needs some help.

Projection is a self-defense mechanism where a person voices his/her own fears while attributing them to someone else. For example, you ask an interviewee, “Did you touch that child’s private parts?” and he responds, “Someone would have to be really sick in the head to do something like that.” Did he answer your question? No. Did he give you an answer that tips you off to possible guilt? Absolutely. In this case, the “someone” this person might be referring to is himself and he’s revealing that he’s aware that he’s sick and he’s concerned about it.

12. Interrogatory.

Phrase to watch for: How should I know that? How would I know? You think I know that? Why do you need to know that? Why are you asking me? What kind of question is that? What makes you think I’d know that? What’s the meaning of that question?

Here the subject answers your question with a question. Sometimes this type of evasive response takes the form of mirroring the question you just asked. For example, you ask, “Did you shoot that man?” and the subject replies, “Did I shoot that man?” Is the subject truly trying to clarify the question because he didn’t understand it, or is he buying time because he’s force into a corner with a closed-ended question that should be responded to with a simple yes or no answer?

13. Rambling dissertation.

What to watch for: You ask, “Where you at John’s Bar (where a shooting occurred) that day?” and the person you’re interviewing responds, “Man, what a day. The phones didn’t stop ringing. My boss was on my back about some overdue accounts. Somebody got the promotion I wanted and I was stressed out. I can’t believe they promoted that guy. He’s so incompetent it’s ridiculous. We just stopped by John’s Bar for a couple of drinks to unwind a little. I needed it after the day I had. I’m going to start looking for another job. I’ve had it with that place. They don’t pay me enough to put up with all the hassles. I mean, there are other places to work, right?”

What just happened here? You asked a simple question that could have been answered very quickly with a simple yes or no. Instead, you got a flood of information that has nothing to do with your question. The interviewee admits he was at the bar, but only after rambling on about the bad day he had. Then, after he’s admitted being there, he attempts to divert your attention away from his presence at the bar to the problems he’s having at work. The real answer to your question is hidden behind a bunch of verbal padding.

If a question you ask is answered with a rambling dissertation, it’s important to remember that this person could in fact be innocent and may be telling you all of this extra information because he fears you may think he’s guilty unless he justifies why he was at the bar. However, it’s also possible he’s hiding something.

Also remember that under stress, the body releases adrenalin that needs to be released and breathing may be labored or excessive. By talking for awhile, the subject may be trying to relieve some of that stress, stabilize his breathing and help ease the discomfort he’s feeling.

14. The answer doesn’t fit the question.

What to watch for: You ask, “Did you have a gun on you when you walked into that store?” and you get the answer, “I don’t have nothin’ to do with guns!”

In this example you asked, “Did you have a gun on you when you walked into that store?” not “Do you have any guns? Tell me how you feel about guns.” Again, your question could have been answered with a yes or no but wasn’t. Why? Is it because the guy answers every question ever asked of him that has to do with guns with a statement like this? Does he really want you to know he’s not the gun type? Or is he avoiding the question? Be curious enough to find out.

Denial of presence.

What to watch for: You’re in a room alone with only one subject and you ask, “Did you shoot that man?” and he answers, “Who, me? Is that question directed at me?”

A response like this should set off warning bells. Only two of you are in the room. You asked the question and you obviously weren’t asking it of yourself, so there’s only one person the question could be directed to…the interviewee. Obviously, the answer to his question is yes, you were asking HIM the question. Why would he ask a question with such an obvious answer? Is he buying time? Have you made him uncomfortable? Why is he uncomfortable? Find out.

Speech errors.

Mistakes to watch for: I’m doing everything I can to prove myself guilty. It’ll show you I’m not telling the truth. There’s really not much true I can tell you.

Here the interviewee makes a mistake…a “Freudian slip.” Freud believed that a mistake like this reveals an “unconscious agenda” going on below the surface of one’s conscious awareness. Honest mistakes are always possible and assuming guilt based solely on a verbal or written mistake is definitely not advisable, but as an interviewer you should take everything you see and hear into consideration. A mistake like this made under pressure should be remembered and considered a small—but potentially important—piece of a big puzzle.

Also, watch for corrections to the slip up like, “That was a mistake, I didn’t mean to say that.” What he’s telling you is true. That really was a mistake and he didn’t mean to say it, but don’t disregard the fact that he did say it.

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