Is a job applicant really telling you the truth? Are they a trustworthy person? These are the challenging questions that every employer faces during the hiring process. The correct answers to these enquiries matter since getting them wrong could mean undesirable consequences for a business. That reason alone means it’s very important for companies to engage in extensive pre-employment screening.
One company based in Utah hopes to pioneer an innovation on top of existing technology to make in-depth screening of job applicants easier. The new technology tracks eye movements based on the traditional polygraph test, which measures changes in skin conductivity and perspiration during an intense period of questioning. Its inventors claim that tracking extremely fine variations in pupil size and eye movement can determine when someone may be telling a lie. Unfortunately, the usefulness of such a tool is in doubt—even its inventors admit they only achieved an accuracy rate comparable to that of a traditional polygraph.
Despite popular conceptions about "lie detectors" based on their depictions in fictional media, polygraphs are notoriously unreliable and often very easy to defeat. Primarily based on pseudoscience, polygraph results are not even admissible as evidence in court in almost every circumstance. Even the newest claims about advances in polygraph technology are unlikely to move the needle towards broader acceptance. Their reliability is shaky at best, with a claimed accuracy rate of less than 90%.
Can Employers Use Polygraphs as Part of a Screening Process?
Even though polygraphs rarely serve a useful purpose, many employers may still wonder whether they can subject applicants to lie detection. Can they? The answer is a flat "no." Almost every business in the private sector is entirely prohibited from using polygraphs. This prohibition stems from the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988. The only exceptions under this law are for applicants to security-related positions and those applying to work in the production of controlled pharmaceutical substances.
The EPPA does not apply to public government agencies at any level. Therefore, law enforcement agencies typically require a polygraph as part of the application process—although common police polygraph questions are easy to find online, making it possible for applicants to "rehearse" for their test.
Rather than relying on technologies of dubious reliability and a poor reputation, using more traditional yet robust employment screening services is the smarter choice. You don't have to wire an applicant to a machine to figure out if they've told lies about their past criminal behavior, educational credentials, or where they've worked.
Instead, a thorough background check that examines applicants from multiple angles is the best way to go. Not only is it a well-regulated process, but the outcomes are often far more accurate than anything you could determine via a polygraph. Review your vetting procedures and explore whether you have the tools to hire quickly and safely today.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.