Thread: polygraph help

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    Post polygraph help

    hey fellas

    I am going to have to take a polygraph test soon for the first time. I am a little uneasy about taking the test. Its not that I have anything to hide, its the fact that I am afraid that I will fail because I dont know what to expect.

    What advice can you give me before I take the test for the first time? Any help from people who already have gone through the process would be awesome!

    thanks to all that post ahead of time

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    Default Prepare in Advance

    _____________________________________________

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    Default Don't sweat it

    The not knowing what to expect is the hardest part.
    I had to fill out a questionnaire which took like 1.5-2 hours.
    It dealt with almost everything and anything you could think of.
    Drug use, Gambling, driving record, debt you may have, ever takie anything from an employer, etc.
    Then after I was done with that they brought me into the Polygraph room.
    The person then went over all the questions they were going to ask, and let you ask for clarification if you needed it.
    With me they did two sets of 10 questions each(3 or 4 of which were questions such as your name is john doe?) If I remember correctly the second set was very similar except maybe the order was changed around a bit. A friend of mine went to it for the same department and had the same thing except they did 3 sets with him and on the third set asked him to just think of the answers in his head.
    We are both still in the running.

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    I recently went througha polygraph and passed, so here's some advice.
    -The questions in the pre-test tend to dictate the questions they will ask you when you are hooked up to the machine. There are standard questions they have to ask, as well as "control" questions, but if you show some reaction to questions they ask you in the pre-test, there's a good chance there will be a question while hooked to the machine.
    -I know it's tough, but relax. The more relaxed you are, the less likely you are going to give a reading that could be interpreted as deceptive.
    -Most importantly, do not give the person testing you any reason to dislike you. Don't be late, dress appropriately, and be cordial.
    Hope it helps. It helped me. Good luck.

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    Default standard questions

    Since I am not familiar with the process, what are some of the standard questions they will ask and what can the control questions be?

    What kind of tolerance do most polygraphers have to drugs and alcohol?? I have experimented with (minor)drugs before, three years ago, and am of legal age to occasionally drink and get drunk with the guys on special occasions.

    Thanks for all of your help and advice

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    Quote Originally Posted by firefox29
    Since I am not familiar with the process, what are some of the standard questions they will ask and what can the control questions be?

    What kind of tolerance do most polygraphers have to drugs and alcohol?? I have experimented with (minor)drugs before, three years ago, and am of legal age to occasionally drink and get drunk with the guys on special occasions.

    Thanks for all of your help and advice
    The tolerance level of your examiner has nothing to do with the test or if your hired - what does count is the tolerance of the Dept your applying for.

    Once you arrive you will be asked to answer question on a questionaire - as someone posted already, these questions ask everything from how much do you drink in a month and how often, to how much money do you spend a month on gambling. There will be questions about drinving history and criminal history. Based on those answers the polygrapher will pick a set of questions that he will ask to see if your being honest.

    They will then go over those questions with you - so you already know the questions that will be asked. You will then be hooked up to the polygraph - the one that was not the one that was used when I went, was not one of those old ones you see with the needle but a laptop computer - one strap will go around your upper chest and I beleive one went around the lower stomach area?

    They will then pump up a BP cuff slighlty on your arm and off you go!
    Last edited by SSTONER; 01-09-2006 at 11:25 PM.
    Warm Regards,
    Shawn Stoner
    EMT-B

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    The standard questions seem to be things like "Have you used any illegal drugs?" or if you have, "Have you used any illegal drugs other than what you have already told me?"
    "Have you committed any serious crimes?" Usually they explain what a "serious" crime is so you're not confused.
    "Have you lied at any point during this test?"
    These would be examples of what I thought were the standard questions on the polygraph test I was given, the kind of questions that they ask everyone.

    As far as how they hook you up, I had one thing across my upper chest, one thing across my lower chest, both to measure your breathing; the blood pressure cuff, and things attached to my fingers that were supposed to measure the conductivity in your fingers (pretty much whether you are sweating or not). The other thing that might be there is a pad on the seat which I think was supposed to measure whether you are squirming around.

    The one piece of advice I got from a friend who had been through a few before, was to take your time, repeat the question once in your head, then go ahead and answer it out loud.

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    Sorry, I forgot that you asked about control questions. They would things like, "Is your name Bob Jones?" Things that they know the answer to ahead of time. They are used to establish a baseline response so they know what your reactions should normally be, then measure the other questions against that. I hope all this helps.

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    Polygraph Examinations
    The intent of this chapter is not to advise candidates how to “beat” a polygraph exam, but rather to educate them on the process. Much of the research for this chapter was conducted by interviewing candidates who have been through the process and via my own personal experience with a pre-employment polygraph examination.
    The name “polygraph” refers to the manner in which physiological activities are simultaneously recorded. The term literally means “many writings.”
    The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1998 (EPPA) prohibits most private employers from administering prehire polygraph interviews. Of note, however, is the fact that this does not apply to public employers such as police and fire departments or governmental institutions.
    Polygraph examiners use a series of different instruments placed strategically on the subject’s body. Convoluted rubber tubes that are placed over the examinee’s chest and abdominal area will record respiratory activity. Two small plates attached to the fingers will record sweat gland activity, and a blood pressure cuff will record cardiovascular activity.
    Typically, polygraph examiners will administer a “pre-test.” During this period, the examiner will complete required paperwork and discuss the questions that will be covered during the exam proper. It is not uncommon for the examiner to ask the subject to intentionally lie about his or her age. The examiner shows the physical results to the subject to lend credibility to the test. Following the initial interview, the examiner will question the subject on anything that gives an unusual reading. The subject will have an opportunity to explain any unusual findings.
    Proponents believe polygraph examinations are extremely accurate, while opponents argue that there is minimal science associated with the process. According to the Journal of Applied Psychology (1997), the polygraph examination has a 61% accuracy rate. According to Jerry Smith, former CIA general counsel, “The polygraph is not perfect. Honest people have failed, while dishonest people have passed. The polygraph is intrusive and may be abused. If it is misused it can ruin the careers of honest people.”
    In an American Civil Liberties Union briefing paper, the article explains that despite the claims of lie detector examiners, there is no reliable machine that can detect lies with any degree of accuracy. The “lie detector” does not measure truth telling; it measures changes in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and perspiration. A wide range of emotions, such as anger, sadness, embarrassment and fear, can trigger these physiological changes. In addition, a variety of medical conditions, such as colds, headaches and neurological and muscular problems, can distort the results. Indeed, as an American Medical Association expert testified during public hearings before Congress, “The lie detector cannot detect much better than a coin toss.”
    Proponents of polygraph screening believe that applicant’s prior knowledge of the agency’s policy to administer a polygraph results in a higher caliber of applicants. In other words, the ones with questionable backgrounds do not even apply. In addition, the applicants who do apply are generally more honest, knowing they will be put to task. Of course, this belief cannot be verified.


    The American Polygraph Association (APA) Research Center at Michigan State University conducted a study of police departments to determine the extent of polygraph use for pre-employment screening for police officers. The survey included roughly 700 of the nation’s largest police departments, excluding federal agencies. The results revealed that 62% of police departments administer pre-employment polygraph examinations, while 31% did not, and 7% had discontinued the use because of legislation that had been put into place within their jurisdiction.
    Of the applicants tested, roughly 25% were disqualified. Although it is difficult to determine exactly why the applicants were disqualified, the overwhelming majority were disqualified for some form of serious undetected crime. Of the agencies surveyed, the polygraph screening revealed that 9% were involved in unsolved homicide, 34% had some involvement with forcible rape, and 38% had participated in armed robberies.
    According to the APA and the EPPA, no examiner shall delve into the following: religious beliefs; opinions or beliefs regarding racial matters; political beliefs or affiliations; lawful activities or affiliations with labor unions or labor organizations; sexual preferences or activities. Similar questions are presumably asked in fire department pre-examinations.
    In law enforcement pre-employment examinations, the questions focus on such job-related inquiries as the theft of money or merchandise from previous employers, falsification of information on the job application, the use of illegal drugs during working hours, and criminal activities. Similar questions are presumably asked in fire department pre-employment examinations.
    The results of the polygraph examination can only be released to authorized persons. These are generally considered to be the examinee and the person, firm, corporation or governmental agency which requested the examination.
    If a polygraph examinee believes an error has occurred in the process, he or she has several options. He or she should first request in writing a second examination and retain an independent examiner. In the fire department testing arena, this would certainly come out of the applicant’s pocket with no guarantee the agency would accept the results. The applicant may also choose to file a complaint with the state licensing board for polygraph examiners and the Department of Labor. Lastly, he or she may file a request for assistance from the American Polygraph Association.
    Polygraphs are not an exact science. At best they can give the examiner a strong indication the examinee may not be telling the truth. At worst they can give a false reading, which may ultimately result in declaring the applicant to be telling a lie. Whichever the case, applicants need to educate themselves on the process, as they are becoming more popular. An Internet search under “polygraph” examinations should yield more information for those who are interested.

    Paul Lepore
    Battalion Chief
    www.aspiringfirefighters.com

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    Post why do so many candidates fail the test?

    Thanks to everyone who posted, this is helping a lot, also...

    I dont understand how so many candidates fail the test. We all know that all firefighters in this country are not squeaky clean. Why do some candidates that have more to hide sometimes pass the poly over candidates that dont have much at all to hide (minor drug use in the past etc.)?

    It has to come down to how you prepare for and present yourself at the test.

    comments please

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    If you have been honest about any drug use or criminal record throughout the application process, then you have nothing to hide and you should be fine during the polygraph. I think some people get so nervous about the polygraph that it may give a negative reading, therefore causing them to fail. When I had mine, I had been upfront about some minor drug usage and a drunk in public charge, so I had no problem discussing them. I really believe that in addition to being truthful before the test, how you present yourself to the examiner plays a large part. Remember, the machine does not detect whether you are being truthful, the examiner is interpreting the readings from the machine to determine whether you are being truthful. So, you can possibly tip the odds a little in your favor, or at least keep them even by presenting yourself well and making a good first impression.

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    Those aren't control questions. Those are irrelevant questions. I recommend that you download the free book at www.antipolygraph.org . Good luck!

    Quote Originally Posted by gepetto
    Sorry, I forgot that you asked about control questions. They would things like, "Is your name Bob Jones?" Things that they know the answer to ahead of time. They are used to establish a baseline response so they know what your reactions should normally be, then measure the other questions against that. I hope all this helps.

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    Sorry about that. I got confused. I already passed mine, so I'm good to go.

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    Default Prepare

    Hello all,

    I recently took a polygraph for a department in Orange County. The news I received from the department was heart breaking to say the least. I had failed the polygraph. The incident involved happened 14 years ago while I was a bartender at a local restaurant. I worked so extremely hard to get to this point; it was devastating news for my kids, my wife and me. I was very truthful in my responses. I’m 37 years old; I’ve been married for 12 years with two young boys. This was my very first test. I was nervous going in but I did not think there would be any problem at all. So my dreams of working for the department I so badly wanted to work for are over.

    In closing, looking at it in every direction, I chose to take this test knowing I had nothing to hide and being truthful was the best route I could take. The next test I take, I assure you, I will be better prepared.

    Thanks for your time, Scott

    Reply from CB: The first time I ever had contact and talked to Scott was 45 minutes after he got the call that he had failed his poly. Needless to say he was devastated. When I asked him what he had done to prepare for his polygraph he said he used the free information from some of the “experts” on some of the firefighter Internet forums. Using those guidelines he said he went in and spilled his guts, just like going to confession.

    Just a few minutes into our conversation he realized that he had become too familiar with the evaluator, got chatty, volunteered too much beyond what was requested, was really nervous but thought everything was going just great.

    Scott wrote: The next test I take, I assure you, I will be better prepared.

    I believe Scott is only referring to understanding the process better. I’m a firm believer in preparing for every step in the hiring process before you get there.

    According to Doug Williamson a 35-year veteran polygraph evaluator from www.polygraph.com “It is a very serious mistake to believe that you will pass your polygraph or CVSA tests just because you are telling the truth - they are not "lie detectors". Scientific research proves that simple nervousness will cause a truthful person to fail!”

    I talked to Scott after he checked out polygraph.com. He realized he had not been as prepared as he could have been before his polygraph and revealed information beyond what was required. If he had it to do over again he would have been better prepare on the process before his evaluation and could have had a better opportunity of passing without compromising his truthfulness as others are referring to here.

    Being prepared for every step of the hiring process before you show up will place you in a better position to end up wearing a badge than being caught flat footed wondering what happened when the career you have been intensely pursuing evaporates before you eyes.

    Man, I'm sorry to hear that Scott. I feel compelled to add my
    recent polygraph experience to the mix. To sum it all up in
    one word..."BRUTAL” Having had a somewhat checkered
    past, that is well behind me, it is no fun to have to re-live and
    regurgitate all of your past mistakes to a group of total
    strangers that hold your future in their hands. Going in I
    thought..."ah...no problem, I just won't lie” I was totally
    unprepared for the depth and invasiveness of the quantity
    and types of questions that I was asked. I echo what Capt.
    Bob says in that you need to be prepared going in. I went in
    with the attitude that I was not going to try to deceive them.

    Well...I was notified that there were some irregularities on a
    couple of portions. That was after waiting about 4 weeks for
    the results. Fortunately they let me go back and address the
    portions in question. Another nerve wracking wait, and
    finally word that I passed. Personally I don't think I could go
    through that again, I'm glad it's over. If I have any words of
    advice, it would be to research what a polygraph is all about,
    and relax. In the end, what I had done was less important to
    them than that I was forthcoming about it.
    _____________________________________________

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    Sorry to hear that CaptBob. The polygraph was my biggest worry going in just because I didn't know much about it. I told the truth, but did not offer any more info than I was asked for. Everything that I have posted so far has been based on my personal experience in the application process that I am currently going through. Being prepared is obviously a good idea, but during my pre-test interview, I was asked if I had done any prep for the polygraph. So there is a chance that the examiner may ask you that question.

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    Find a friend who works in an ER- have him get you a 10mg Inderal tablet, take prior to polygraph and enjoy the decreased heart rate, decreased B/P and pass despite what you have "to hide". I'm only being sarcastic...I hate polygraphs and think they have no business in the application process. Oh yes-I used to work in an ER!!!!!!

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    I'm guessing this was tongue in cheek, but for the record, beta blockers won't help you pass a polygraph. Your relevant questions will be compared against control questions (probable lie or directed lie questions). If you react to both the same, they will think you are being deceptive, or at the very least, it will be inconclusive. Beta blockers will just bring down the baseline, or worse, prevent you from reacting to control questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by wag11c
    Find a friend who works in an ER- have him get you a 10mg Inderal tablet, take prior to polygraph and enjoy the decreased heart rate, decreased B/P and pass despite what you have "to hide". I'm only being sarcastic...I hate polygraphs and think they have no business in the application process. Oh yes-I used to work in an ER!!!!!!

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    Im trying to learn as i go, after reading all the posts i was wondering if you fail the polygraph what would be your next step ? can you re take it or apply at a diff. fire house, or is your fire career, which all your time and money went to, gone for ever ?

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    I am scheduled for a FD Poly on Tuesday, I'm just a little nervous. I have taken a polygraph in the past for a private security company. I passed that but I have to say it was one of the most unpleasent experiences I have been through and am not looking forward to the next one. It's not like I have anything to hide or gotten away with ANY crimes or am a bad person. It's just very intimidating that this test determines if I go on or have to start all over somewhere else. I worry about screwing it up. Just a very unpleasent but necessary step on the way to the badge.
    The views expressed by me are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of any of my affiliations.

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    I may need to be corrected, but if you fail the poly that doesn't limit your future testing
    The views expressed by me are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of any of my affiliations.

    "Hope is not a plan of action"
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    "There is plenty of room for all Gods creatures. On my plate, right next to the mashed potatoes!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by dneptun81
    I may need to be corrected, but if you fail the poly that doesn't limit your future testing
    so does that mean that mean if i fail the poly for a fire house can i still be a fire fighter ?

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    You will be eliminated from that "list" and have to re-test
    The views expressed by me are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of any of my affiliations.

    "Hope is not a plan of action"
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    Quote Originally Posted by dneptun81
    You will be eliminated from that "list" and have to re-test
    the "list" what is that ? and do you mean polygraph test ?

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    The hiring list that you are put on after you do the written test, physical test and oral board. The FD's use the list to decide who's next to be called to continue on in the hiring process with the polygraph, psych, background and Dr.'s Physical etc.
    The views expressed by me are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of any of my affiliations.

    "Hope is not a plan of action"
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    "There is plenty of room for all Gods creatures. On my plate, right next to the mashed potatoes!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by dneptun81
    The hiring list that you are put on after you do the written test, physical test and oral board. The FD's use the list to decide who's next to be called to continue on in the hiring process with the polygraph, psych, background and Dr.'s Physical etc.
    So even failing a polygraph test a person would still be able to become a firefighter ?

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