How to Recognize the Signs That Someone Is Lying

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

In this article, I would like to briefly discuss the topic which I consider important not only for recruiters, but for everybody who is a part of the interview process.

Surely, I’m not the only one who knows, in practice, the role of “lying” in the process of proper assessment of the candidate’s qualities. Over the years in recruitment, I read through several books and articles about this topic. It was literature that dealt with the purpose, meaning and function of “lies and lying” in interpersonal situations, strategy lies of different types of personalities, a lie as a defense mechanism, and of course what lies look like during non-verbal communication.

What I am describing is not just a simple sum of what I learned by studying the literature, but I tried to enrich this article with my insights and experience.

How to Detect Liars

There is a difference between the candidates who “lie about themselves” and those who “lie to themselves”.

But let us face the truth, people are lying not only during interviews, that’s the fact! They are lying to their friends, family, lovers, team members, etc. There are many types of lies In fact, we hear between 10 and 200 lies every single day.

The most common lie is a “white lie”. (Minor or unimportant lie, often done to spare someone’s feelings or for some other diplomatic reason.)

People use white lies because they are trying to be polite or nice to other people and they don’t want to hurt their feelings. Or they are trying to make excuses not to go to a party. But with the first lie, liars lose their credibility.

During interviews, people lie about the salary, about responsibilities, sometimes about job titles. But not all lies are bad lies. If an interviewer asks “How was your day yesterday?”, it’s ok to say “great”, even if in reality, the truth is something like “I was sick, feeling terrible”. That’s the white lie.

Candidate Resume

Always start with the candidate resume, check the dates and gaps in the CV. Lots of modern ATS’s offer a possibility to keep different versions of candidates’ resumes. So check the old version of the CV and maybe you will spot a big difference, such as in title names. Check the candidate’s CV and make sure your questions during the interview cover the gaps in employment and reasons for leaving jobs.

Top 5 Lies in Resumes:

  1. Stretching dates of employment
  2. Unexplained gaps during jobs
  3. Using more fancy job titles (Sales Director instead the real Key Account Manager)
  4. Faked credentials
  5. Misrepresentations in job descriptions

People can lie but their body will reveal their lies. It’s not always easy or possible to spot the liar. Pathological liars and sociopaths can fool just about anyone. For them, lying is an essential part of their personality.

Body Language

Liars touch their face, cover their mouth, and touch their throat when they are lying.

Arm and hand movements or any other physical expression will be limited and rigid. The liars are also touching/scratching their nose or behind their ear.

A person who is lying to you will avoid making eye contact. Well, this is a common misconception. Most liars will look you into the eyes; they will often look you in the eyes a bit too much.

Another common misconception is that people who are lying fidget more than those who are giving straight answers during an interview. However, this could be caused by nervousness or/and discomfort.

It Is Impossible To Fake a Smile

You can fake a smile when you get a present that you really hate and you are just trying to act nice and be polite. But it’s almost impossible to smile with any emotion in the eyes, plus the real smile changes the entire face. A fake smile involves only mouth and not the entire face. You can’t fake a genuine smile!

Smile also betrays us when we are lying. When liars are telling a lie, in the end, they will smile a little. This smile is called “duping delight” and it is an expression liars reveal at the satisfaction of getting away with their lie.

Speech Pattern

Liars tend to use a lot more words than people who are telling the truth; the length of the sentence grows along with the lie. Liars will also use distancing language rather than the name of someone who might expose them. Liars swear more often than people who are telling the truth.


Eyes are the window to your soul and you can learn a lot about a person through their eye movements. When we are trying to lie, we are activating different parts of brain and we are looking in certain directions, depending on what we are thinking about or what we are trying to remember.

  • Up and to the right: This movement indicates visually remembered images, something that happened visually, such as the colour of the car that you saw in a shop etc.
  • Up and to the left: This indicates visually constructed images (thinking up a lie visually), such as imagining that you have a new red car with leather seats.
  • Down and to the right: When people talk to themselves in their head.
  • Down and to the left: Thinking about something they did in past.
  • Sideways and to the Left: Constructing up a lie orally.
  • Sideways and to the right: Thinking about something they heard somewhere.

But this does not work for everybody. For some people (e.g. left-handed people), this may be working in the opposite manner.

Liars Change the Subject of Conversation Rather Suddenly

Liars will take any opportunity they can to change the subject and often use humour to side-track the conversation. They will try to distract you with another topic so they are minimize the possibility that you are going to catch them during the lie.

Micro Expressions

Micro expressions are quick facial expressions, they happen quickly, but they can be detected. They last between 1/25 and 1/15 of a second and that betray underlying emotions that the person is trying to suppress. Micro expressions are often facial, but they can also appear in the body, such as small movements of the hand.

Learning to spot micro expressions will help you increase your empathy and understand others a little bit better. When you are able to recognize micro expressions, you become more sensitive to the emotions of others and you can tell, not only during interview, what the candidate/person is feeling or what emotion s/he is trying to conceal. Micro expressions will help you to reveal truth behind the words, for example, when a candidate is talking about his boss, his micro expressions might reveal that he feel disgust (most often wrinkling the nose, raising of the upper lip) against his boss. So you can dig deep on this topic during the interview.

A Suggestion for Candidates

Be yourself, trust in your skills and your experience. Don’t lie in your CV, on your LinkedIn profile, or during the interview. No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar and if you don’t want to slip up tomorrow, speak the truth today.

A Suggestion for Recruiters

Trust your intuition, but check the facts. If you are not sure about your new employee, then check references, validate degrees and physical cues that suggest there may be something to investigate.

Please remember that none of these verbal or nonverbal clues are 100% proof of lying.

Micro and Subtle Expression Training Tool by Paul Ekman

Note: I recommend his book Emotions Revealed: Understanding Faces and Feelings

Pamela Meyer: How to spot a liar