This blog post is going to cover what one should expect and what not to expect when taking a pre-employment polygraph test.
I decided to do this particular blog post because in past months, I have had several friends come to me with a lot of questions, concerns and worries about taking a polygraph test. They say things such as “I know I will be nervous so I know I am not going to do well on the test or I have things in my past and I know that even if I disclose these issues, it will be on my mind and I will not do well on the test.”
This blog post will be written chronologically from scheduling a polygraph test appointment (after one applies for a government job, be it security, law-enforcement, state, county or local municipality) to post test interview at the end.
Usually an applicant is contacted by phone to schedule an appointment for the polygraph test. This contact is made by the polygraph examiner. In my case, if I get the applicant’s voice mail, I will leave several dates for the applicant to choose from.
They can then call back with a primary and a secondary choice. This is done just in case the applicant’s first choice for testing has been filled by someone else before they call back. Along with the dates, I will tell the applicant when choosing a date and time, to take into consideration the location of the test site and the duration of the test which is three to three and one half hours to complete.
It is rare, but I have had tests take as long as 4 hours. The applicant is instructed to: get a good nights rest (at least 6 hours. I will talk later about the importance of sleep and some experiences I have had with test subjects and this issue) shower, dress comfortably (no suit and tie, no sleeveless tops), take prescribed medications (if applicable), bring a list of those medications and a form of government identification to the test site. Also, during this contact, I obtain an email address from the applicant. I email the applicant further instructions and the polygraph screening booklet.
The booklet is to be filled out by the applicant prior to coming to the test site. Some polygraph examiners frown on the practice of giving out the polygraph screening booklet prior to coming to the test site. Their reasoning is: 1. Somebody else could fill out or coach the applicant on filling out the polygraph screening booklet. or 2. The applicant could take their original job application and use it to copy answers verbatim to the polygraph screening booklet, to make sure their answers are consistent. Those are issues that I do not worry about.
In reference to reason number one, I review the polygraph screening booklet with the applicant page by page question by question. This pretest interview takes roughly 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Also, when the applicant arrives at the test site, I have them fill out and sign several forms. So, taking all of this into account, there is no problem determining whether an applicant personally filled out the polygraph screening booklet and determining the consistency of their answers.
In reference to reason number two, you would think that an applicant would take a polygraph booklet and put in it, verbatim, everything they put in their job application questionnaire. Surprisingly, I have found this not to be the case. You would not believe how many inconsistencies I come across routinely with applicants, in reference to their employment package and the polygraph screening booklet.
I will soon be posting on what to expect when showing up to the test site Part 2.