Polygraph for filtering candidates – Learning from experience

Polygraph for filtering candidates – Learning from experience

Real cases with pseudonyms:


The question of the need for a polygraph examination when filtering job candidates has appeared in the media from time to time. The reason for this is clear – Various organizations are interested in presenting themselves as workplaces that promote employees and fear the image of an “interrogation room” attached to a polygraph. Our experience has shown that when bypassing an examination of the credibility of a candidate, the damage can be far greater than the expedience.

Credibility or lack of credibility are contradicting qualities. While other qualities and abilities can be tested by means of interviews and other procedures, credibility cannot be diagnosed using conventional tools. A lack of credibility is relatively easy to conceal during the classification stage and during the overlapping training process. Betrayal of trust will take place when an employee feels certain of himself, when he knows that there is very little inspection of him and has recognized the loopholes in the organization. A wise man once stated that in order to betray trust, trust has to be given. This is perhaps the reason why in many cases (some of which have been published in the media), the amazement about exposure  was so great by the officials in an organization. During a polygraph examination in the classification process, questions are asked about the candidate's past with the aim of discovering whether he has executed any actions contradictory to the norm, under the assumption (based on much research) that people who have already betrayed trust have a tendency to repeat non-normative conduct.

A Practical Story: A Deceitful Deputy CEO

A few years ago we were requested to examine a number of candidates for the position of the Financial Deputy CEO at a large financial company in the country. Three final candidates, who had undergone a long classification process, which included an interview with the CEO and a classification process within the human resources framework, arrived for the polygraph examination. The first candidate was found to be lying regarding a question about involvement in deceit at the previous workplace. The organization's CEO had difficulty accepting the findings and demanded that the security department in his organization investigate whether the candidate was indeed involved in this type of event. After a brief investigation, they found out that candidate had been dismissed six months previously from another company in which he had functioned as an accountant. Apparently, the candidate exploited his position and accessibility to the financial statements and faked financial data, which enabled him to direct substantial sums of money into his own pocket. An in-depth investigation showed that the company that had employed him had preferred to maintain its good name and, therefore, chose not to complain and to dismiss the accountant amicably with recommendations and legal compensation.

The Bottom Line:

The best way of maintaining a balance between the need to present a friendly countenance to an employee and the need to prevent the entry of personnel that may put the organization at risk, is determining a scale for the risk level and exposure in each job. In this manner, it is possible to facilitate the classification process for jobs with a high risk or low exposure level. Having determined the scale, to strictly maintain the policy that anyone who is accepted into the organization without a polygraph examination cannot advance to any job level with a high a risk.