Don’t take the series ‘Lie to Me’ too seriously, urge interview experts at The Bagg Group


The popular TV series Lie to Me is inspired by the scientific discoveries that the face, body and voice provides clues to hidden feelings. 

As recruiters who are experts in the art and science of in-depth interviewing, at The Bagg Group we know that people send non-verbal cues.  But as many behaviour experts warn, the show Lie to Me oversells the point.  Making snapshot judgments can be unfair to candidates.

For example, psychologist Kevin Ochsner noted in an ABC TV interview on the subject that a person who is concentrating can be mistaken as angry. In both cases, people tend to narrow their eyes and furrow their brow.

That said, we can’t help but pick up signals from each other.  And certain signals can instantly put people at ease which is useful for the interview process.   

In his book Louder Than Words, Joe Navarro, a former special agent with the FBI and leading expert on nonverbal communications, talks about the power of what he calls “movement to action.” This includes the simple gesture of getting up to greet someone which sends a message to the person that they matter. 

Mr. Navarro writes that when bank managers or account managers get up to greet new or old customers, the customers rate the encounter as more satisfying.

He adds that his study shows that clients enjoyed a positive effect for a day, and even longer, when they were welcomed by a receptionist who stood to greet them, rather than by one who remained sitting behind a desk.

“It makes sense, we feel special when people move to action on our behalf and it makes us feel appreciated,” says Mr. Navarro.  He notes that parents instinctively use “movement to action” when they run to greet a child with open arms, which causes delight in the child.  

Writing in Psychology Today, Mr. Navarro notes, “We even find that jurors tend to look upon attorneys with greater empathy when those same attorneys stand as the jurors come into the room. This rise to action, which demonstrates respect, can and does influence individuals and not just in business or the courtroom.”

Conversely, failure to move to action can send a message that you are indifferent to the person coming to see you.  Such a signal can skew an interview. Interviewees may feel immediately defensive or nervous, believing that they have to turn cartwheels to make an impression.

That’s why after forty years of listening and “reading” candidates to ensure successful placements,  all of us at The Bagg Group urge hiring authorities across the GTA to pay less attention to the oversimplified claims of Lie to Me, and more attention to those small gestures that set the stage for an open conversation.

For more on nonverbal communications, Joe Navarro’s newest book is Louder than words: take your career from average to exceptional with the hidden power of nonverbal intelligence. He also co-wrote the 2008 book, What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex FBI’s Guide to Speed Reading People.

Comments are closed.