We interviewed Elly Johnson, an expert in truth dilemmas. In this Four-Part Interview Series, Elly sets the stage by explaining how truth and lies grow in the workplace. She guides job searchers in ways to handle the question, "why did you leave your last job?" when the real answer may scare you to disclose. She offers some helpful ways to explain gaps or quick changes in employment, and some questions to ask your interviewer to encourage honesty on all sides.
Learn from this truth and deception expert how you can encourage more truth from others, accurately read behavior, and spot signs of deception early.
MAC- What are the types of questions that we should ask in an interviewing situation?
Elly – The first step is setting it up at the start of an interview to let them know that the way you view that interaction, where there are two people, is a two-way interview, you're interviewing each other. You set that up at the start, and then it makes it easier for you to ask questions along the way. If you do not feel that confident and you don't have the right mindset, you sit there waiting for a question to be asked. Then, at the end, they say, "Do you have any questions for us?" Then your interview's over, and they've already closed their book.
I call it creating a truth-telling environment at the start, where you let them know that you have questions and you want to make sure the fit is right for both of you. Throughout the interview, you can stop them and say, "Can you tell me more about the culture of the organization, can you tell me about the opportunities for growth, tell me how the staff gets trained." Whatever the situation you want to know, there are so many questions you can ask. "Tell me why the last person left the job. Tell me the specifics about the good and the bad of the job that you're recruiting me to do, like what are the highlights, what are the lowlights?" All those things you can ask, but some people think, "Ah, I couldn't ask that" but why couldn't you? It's a job that you're going to go into and potentially spend five or ten or fifteen years of your life. Of course, you can ask that. If they don't like that, then sorry, I wouldn't want to work there, personally.
MAC- Often, in a work environment, we don't necessarily always have the luxury of understanding what "normal behavior" might be from every individual we encounter, what can we look for in that initial intro if we don't have a baseline for what's normal and what's not?
Elly - We can get a baseline sooner than we think. For a start, you can slow things down and engage somebody in a conversation that's not critical to the sale or essential in the interview. Looking at the paralinguistic, which is the way that, their tone, their pitch, their speed their volume, looking for shifts or changes or looking for changes in facial expressions. Also look at micro-expressions, which are fast emotional flashes on the face. So someone's saying that they like you, but they've got a look of contempt on their face, but it only lasts for 1/25th of a second. That can be important to see.
Shifts in chairs, touching their face, those sorts of behaviors that indicate there's some cognitive and emotional load going on related to that deception. That can be important to look for, but don't jump to conclusions. All it should do is ring that warning bell to say that's interesting. Something has changed. When somebody doesn't answer a question, or they answer your question with another question, that can be interesting too. All those little warning signs to look out for, and think, "I need to ask more, or I need to be careful, "or I need to tread carefully."
MAC- What is your one parting piece of advice?
Elly - I'm passionate about truth, all things truth, and I think to be able to bring more honesty into your life, and stop and have a think about it, we demand more certainty, but do we give truth? What do we need to do to increase that in our world? It's difficult, but I think it's a positive thing, even with our children, our families as well. Stop, think, "What do I need to do differently?"
Looking for truth in your life at work?
Make sure to check out all four parts of our powerful interview with Elly Johnson: