We learn at a very young age to engage in innocent deception. We receive a birthday present that we don't like, and what do we do? We are likely to make a sour face or outright tell the giver we don't like it.

A parent is likely to tell us that this behavior isn't nice and insist that we apologize to the person who gave us the present. We are likely to hear more about our rude behavior later that day!

So, we learn that some deception is okay. We pretend to like gifts that we really don't want and learn to hide our disappointment when we don't get a present we wanted very much.

Have you ever wondered at the fact that the winner of the Miss America pageant is the only one of the contestants for whom it is socially acceptable to show tears? The losers must hide their own disappointment and show how happy they are for the young woman who won the crown. Talk about putting on a happy face!

So we all learn, with varying degrees of skill and sophistication, to hide many of our true feelings. However, we may still subconsciously communicate messages nonverbally that are not the messages we want to convey. At times our verbal communication and our nonverbal communication may contradict each other.

The listener may consciously pick up on these messages that contradict each other, or may detect the inconsistency on a subconscious level. The interviewer may feel that something just doesn't seem right, but they can't put their finger on it. The interviewer is at a loss to explain why they feel uneasy about the candidate sitting in front of them.

However, there are behaviors individuals engage in that people do notice. These behaviors are seen as signs that the person is being less than completely honest. They are cues of deception.

Individuals may exhibit some of these behaviors simply out of nervousness, especially during a stressful event like a job interview. But even if the interviewer recognizes those behaviors as signs of nervousness, the question remains, why is the applicant nervous? Is it because of the job interview? Or is the applicant nervous because he or she is trying to hide something?

Your goal as a job applicant is to avoid raising any of these negative questions in the interviewer's mind. So, let's look at some of the cues that convey deception that you want to avoid.

People who are lying tend to exhibit the following behaviors:
  • less eye contact (fewer and shorter duration) - Remember the saying often cited to indicate a person's perceived dishonesty - "He couldn't look me in the eye." The individual who looks around the room, at the desk, the floor, or at his/her notepad too much of the time may be viewed as having something to hide from the interviewer.

    Aside from this interpretation of the reason for the applicant's behavior, such conduct is likely to make the interviewer feel uncomfortable with the applicant.

  • use fewer gestures - The use of fewer gestures is seen as indicating less enthusiasm, and people are thought to be less dynamic when they are engaged in deceit. The liar is torn between reality and the deception he or she is trying to weave.

  • more shrugs of their hands - The greater number of shrugs of one's hands results from his/her own uncertainty about the message s/he is communicating.

  • less nodding - Less head nodding results from the fact that the person is unconvinced himself and perhaps doesn't even agree, in reality, with what the other individual is saying.

  • slower speaking rate more vocalized pauses and fillers, such as "Umm" or "Uh" - The slower speaking rate as well as the greater number of pauses and fillers come about as the person has to think more carefully about what to say than they would have to if they were telling the truth.

  • higher pitched voice - A voice that is higher pitched than usual results from the speaker's own unease and nervousness about the untruth.

Obviously many of the behaviors cited above can have other explanations. For example, nervousness is a familiar emotion to anyone who has ever experienced a job or performance interview. And being nervous can cause many of these behaviors to appear.

However, these behaviors can also make the interviewer feel uncomfortable and may be perceived as negatives more serious than just nervousness. Thus, they are behaviors that job applicants should avoid, or at least try to reduce as much as possible the intensity and frequency of these nonverbal behaviors.

SOURCE: Adapted from Caryl and Ron Krannich, Ph.D.s, Savvy Interviewing: The Nonverbal Advantage (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pages 83-86. Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.