If you’re one of those people who is considering joining the police force, you must have already thought of the tests you have to pass to become a police officer. Not only does qualifying for the job of a police officer involve performing a series of exams and tests, it also consists of passing the same satisfactorily so that you can move forward in the hiring process.
Needless to say, policing definitely isn’t an easy career, especially for someone who is terrified of exams and tests. These tests exist to measure your overall mindset and mental stability; it’s not the the agency doesn’t “trust” you…it is about the fact that since the you will hold a position of great responsibility and will carry a firearm with live ammunition, they need to know that you can handle both others as well as yourself, and can respond according to the situation. You will thus have to prove that you’re absolutely fit not only physically but also mentally, which requires you to sit for these tests, and include the polygraph test and a psychological examination.
Note however, that passing the polygraph is not a requirement solely for police officers, but also for other agencies like the state police, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ICE, and candidates for federal agencies like the DEA, ATF and the FBI.
Passing the polygraph exam is indeed of utmost importance if you wish to qualify for a career in law enforcement, which is exactly what we will be discussing in this post.
According to research studies, polygraph examinations are highly unpopular. Many do not support the use of passing polygraph examination as necessary requirement for gaining entry into law enforcement since they are inadmissible in court.
Having personally seen many a capable potential police officers getting disqualified due to (sometimes faulty) polygraph results, I would say that police polygraph tests aren’t really capable of detecting lies and weeding out the liars and fabricators from the pool. However, even as polygraph tests aren’t 100% accurate in detecting lies, they are as of now the best available tool to screen applicants and determine whether or not the applicant was being truthful. Which is pretty much the reason why they are used in the first place.
Anyway, since pre-employment polygraph exams aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, you’d be better-off knowing about it in as much detail as possible, complete with tips on how you must prepare for a polygraph test.
But first of all, you must have a clear understanding of what a polygraph really is, the reasons why people are indeed afraid of this test, and why in spite of its flaws, it continues to be an integral part of the hiring process.
THE POLYGRAPH EXPLAINED
So what is a polygraph?
The first thing you should know about a polygraph is that it has no way of actually detecting when you are telling a lie. It basically works on the principle that when people lie, their body goes through various physiological upheavals, which is what the polygraph detects. By means of logical deduction, therefore, it can be said that when the polygraph detects such activity, it is most likely that the individual is lying.
The polygraph, therefore, records physiological responses, such as the rate of perspiration, pulse, blood pressure and breathing rate. In particular, the polygraph system, which comes in both the antique analog model and the modern computerized model gathers physiological data from three specific areas of your body.
The testing process involves 2 rubber tubes which are placed over the candidate’s abdomen and chest to monitor breathing activity, along with 2 splints on the fingers to monitor sweat gland activity, and finally a blood pressure cuff (similar to those used by physicians) around the upper arm to measure cardiovascular activity.
The polygraph interview is conducted by an examiner, who is an experienced highly-trained interrogator who uses the readings of the instrument in tandem with his/her own technical expertise and experience to determine the authenticity of your responses.
Which brings us to the question as to WHY polygraph tests are so terribly intimidating. After all, why should one have to answer questions about things that have absolutely nothing to do with your career? This is a feeling that all examinees go through, given their privacy is in fact invaded, both mentally and (to some extent) physically.
While both criminals and police applicants fear the polygraph test equally, the latter fear reveal things that could lead them to fail the test. This sort of upheaval occurs sometime at the beginning to during the duration of the exam begins.
Take for instance this example: A young man once smoked pot due to peer pressure. He has nothing to do with drugs at all, and that was simply an isolated incident, but when lie detector questions try to find out his history with drugs, he would obviously be inclined to say that he had never used drugs – a situation that puts him in conflict.
Before you sit for the test, you will be asked to complete a pre-Polygraph Questionnaire. You can take a look of what it looks like Here.
You will find that the questionnaire consists of many questions of a personal nature. You must make sure that you read the questions thoroughly, and respond as honestly and as in-detail as possible. For instance, if you smoked pot once, come clean and tell the details. In short, be honest no matter what, and do not make any attempt to hide the indiscretions of your past. Remember, that the answers you put in the questionnaire will be used by the examiner to interview you, so it is better to be honest!!
WHAT SORT OF QUESTIONS WILL BE ASKED IN THE POLYGRAPH INTERVIEW?
Many polygraph questions are common ones like “Is this the month of October?” and “Are you a man/woman?” Polygraph interviews also include questions like “Have you ever taken drugs?” or “Have you ever paid for sex?” – among others.
In police lie detector tests, questions are asked in three segments, with a short break between each segment and a 30-second pause between each question.
While the list of polygraph questions that is written for you and other candidates are essentially the same for the purpose of the interview, their order and wording may differ from one candidate to the other. Rest assured, however, that no additional questions or different questions will be put on the list.
To conclude, here are a few important tips that you can make use of to prepare for your polygraph interview:
– Make sure that you are well-rested: Get proper sleep. Eight hours of sleep should be enough.
– Don’t sway from your routine: It is a bad idea to do anything drastic right in the run up to your polygraph like going out for jogging (when you don’t) and skipping meals.
– Pay attention to the questions: Keep your focus only on the questions, and how you will answer them – not on your heartbeat, sensations, and/or emotions
– Speaking of questions, you must keep your focus on the question being asked at that moment, and nothing else
– Your examiner will surely give you a thousand-mile stare. And though it may be intimidating, there is no need to be afraid. Simply answer the questions without any hesitation whatsoever.
– And now for the most important tip: Whatever the question may be, DO NOT fabricate lies. Always tell the truth, even if it is undesirable and/or embarrassing. Tried weed recreationally as a teenager? Tell the truth!