Can I Trust the Polygraph Examiner?


Finding out you have to take a polygraph exam is an unnerving experience for most people. The thought of being to a machine that can detect if you’re lying seems terrifying. What happens if they ask you about something in your past that makes you feel ashamed? How will that affect your reputation with your employer?

Many people have this concern. We innately don’t trust people that want to pry into our private lives. What do they want to know this information for anyway? It’s common for people to feel stressed and uncertain when they’re facing the prospect of coming face-to-face with the polygraph examiner.

However, there’s nothing to be afraid of or concerned about during your polygraph exam. The examiner is not there to grill you on every mistake or bad decision you made in your life. They don’t care if you had a pain pill problem a few years ago or if you drank too many bottles of wine at lunch on the weekend.

The polygraph examiner is a professional. They have training and experience to keep them following the ethical code they signed up for when they took up their career. But don’t take our word for it just yet.

This post gives you everything you need to know about the examiner and whether you can trust them enough to feel comfortable in the polygraph exam room.


Can I Trust the Polygraph Examiner?

Can you trust the polygraph examiner? In a word, yes. That might be a bit of a bold statement to make, considering you haven’t read any evidence supporting this claim. However, we’re going to do our best to show you why you don’t have to consider the examiner a threat.


Polygraph Examiners Undergo Extensive Training in Polygraphy and Ethics

The polygraph examiner starts the training for their career in high school. During this time, the prospective examiner must complete science, math, biology, and English courses. These subjects give them the foundation they need to apply for university.

After graduating high school, the aspiring polygraph examiner enrolls at a university. They’ll study a BA or BSc degree in criminal psychology or a similar field and spend four years on their studies. When they graduate from college, the aspiring examiner must enroll at an approved, accredited polygraph school.

There are several polygraph schools in the United States. All these institutions undergo licensing and regulation by the American Polygraph Association (APA). The APA sets strict guidelines and standards for the coursework and practical testing offered by polygraph schools across the country.

The polygraph examiner spends 12 to 18 months at a polygraph school, learning the aspects surrounding the polygraph software, instrumentation, and questioning procedures. The examiner also learns a code of ethics they must adhere to during their career.

Ethics is a huge part of polygraph examiners’ training. The APA realizes that polygraph examiners have a huge responsibility to their clients and the examinees they test. The APA ensures that polygraph examiner gets the right training to keep them ethical during their career.


Polygraph Examiners Take Internships for Experience

After the polygraph examiner finishes their studies and training at a polygraph school, they start an internship with a registered polygraph examination business. During this apprenticeship, they follow experienced polygraph examiners that show them the ropes of applying their knowledge to develop their skillset.

Internships last anywhere from 6 to 12 months, depending on the form and the polygraph examiner’s performance. Only after they finish their apprenticeship are they able to conduct exams themselves. Overall, it’s a six to seven-year process for the examiner to go from entering university to sitting down and running their first official polygraph exam.

Not only is it a huge investment of their time, but it also costs them a fortune to qualify for this career. To place this at risk by stepping outside of the ethics code would be a silly thing for them to do. So, you can rely on the polygraph examiner to follow their training and always stick to their code of ethics.


Polygraph Examiners Get Certified and Tested

Polygraph examiners don’t stop their training after attending polygraph school. Many of them go on to specialize in different fields of expertise. For example, some might undergo certification to work in public-sector institutions like law enforcement agencies. Others may go on to work in the testing of sex offenders.

These specialized courses earn them certification to work in these areas, costing them more time and money on their career path. To think that the polygraph examiner would put all this on the line to tamper with results would be ludicrous.

When polygraph examiners join a firm, they’ll receive periodic testing by the company, where they have to undergo lie detector tests themselves. These tests check to see that the examiner is living up to the code of ethics and not practicing unethical exams for clients.


Polygraph Examiners Are Always Under Review

The polygraph examiner is always under the scrutiny of their firm and the APA. Suppose they conduct a polygraph, and the examinee feels the examiner didn’t live up to their ethics code, possibly tampering with the test results. In that case, they have a right to file a complaint against their employer and the examiner.

The examinee seeks legal counsel and unpacks the reasons why they feel they were mistreated at the hands of the examiner. The attorney will file an official complaint with the US Labor Department, the body that enforces “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” (EPPA).

The EPPA legislation provides a set of guidelines employers and polygraph examiners must follow when implementing a polygraph policy in the workplace. If the US Labor Department receives a complaint, they’ll investigate the matter.

This investigation involves the US Labor Department investigating both the employer and the examiner. The examiner must ensure the client follows all paperwork procedures surrounding implementing a polygraph policy and its compliance with the EPPA.

During the exam, the polygraph examiner records the session. The function of this video recording is two-fold. First, it assists the polygraph examiner with their post-exam analysis of the examinee’s responses to their questions.

It also acts as a video record of the polygraph examiner’s performance. The investigator from the US Labor Department reviews this footage to determine the polygraph examiner’s performance while conducting the exam.

If the US Labor Department finds the polygraph examiner acted unethically or outside of the scope of the EPPA, the Examiner risks losing their license, certification, and career.


Polygraph Examiners Remain Impartial & Subjective

So, in the polygraph examiners’ best interests, they always act ethically or risk an investigation that could ruin their career. The examiner’s role in the polygraph test is to make the employee or examinee feel comfortable and at ease with the scenario.

Apart from certain public-sector agencies, such as the CIA, examiners must adhere to their code of ethics and EPPA practices when working in the private sector. It’s their job to ensure the examinee feels at ease before taking the test, and they can’t be authoritative or forceful with the examinee.

The examiner must remain impartial and subjective of the examinees, and they can’t draw any conclusions from the exam or the questioning process other than if the examinee is being deceptive or truthful in their responses. It’s not the examiner’s job to judge the examinee on their behavior or if the actions they take in their personal life are right or wrong.

The examiner must maintain an impartial stance at all times, or they risk being in violation of their code of ethics.


Polygraph Examiners Adhere to the EPPA

As mentioned, “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” is the legislation providing guidelines for polygraph testing in the private sector. The US Labor Department enforces this legislation, and polygraph examiners must always comply with it.

If the polygraph examiner acts unethically, they not only put themselves at risk but also place their client at risk. The employer is subject to huge fines from the US Labor Department if their investigative team receives a complaint and they find the employer in violation of the Act.

The employee has rights regarding the lawful use of polygraphs in the workplace. If the employer or examiner doesn’t adhere to them, they open themselves to financial liability and a potential lawsuit. The examiner also faces the prospect of losing the career and livelihood they work so hard for during their years of training.

In the past, there were instances of polygraph examiners using their authority to pressure examinees into a failed result. However, the implementation of the EPPA saw massive changes in this behavior and huge penalties for breaking their code of ethics.


Polygraph Examiners Don’t Ask Personal Questions

When polygraph examiners perform lie detector tests in the private sector, they must adhere to the guidelines set by the EPPA. When an employer hires them to conduct the test, they cannot have any connection or business relationship with the client.

This practice ensures they remain impartial and uninfluenced during the exam. When the examiner meets with the client, they help them construct the polygraph policy in accordance with the EPPA. Part and parcel of this process involve the construction of a questionnaire for the examinee.

The examiner will work with the client to understand the nature of the problem, causing the need for the client to institute a polygraph policy. For example, the employer may have experienced an inventory theft, and employees may be making claims of sexual harassment between colleagues, fraud, or drug abuse in the workplace.

The examiner designs the questionnaire around this issue. Typically, the questionnaire involves around five questions related to the event. They do not create the questionnaire to probe into the examinee’s personal life.

So, typical questions in a case involving theft in the workplace would be the following.

  • Have you ever stolen from your employer?
  • Have you stolen from a past employer?
  • Did you steal the inventory?
  • Do you have unpaid debts you can’t service?
  • Have you used illegal drugs in the last 18 months?

The structure of these questions pertains to the nature of the crime and the employer’s potential motives for stealing the inventory. Suppose the examinee displays signs of deception, and the examiner thinks they may be related to nervousness more than deception. In that case, they may ask the employee why it looks like they feel anxious.

They’ll allow the employee to explain their mental state and why it could influence the test results. However, the examiner will not try to purposefully set up or lead the employee into admitting they have any involvement in the crime.


The Polygraph Examiner Secures Your Records

The polygraph examiner collects data from the polygraph machine during the exam session. They store this data securely, along with the video recording of the session. Strict rules and guidelines surrounding how the examiner stores and shares this data.

The examiner may not turn this data over to employers, and they can’t share it with anyone outside of their firm. Doing so would be a violation of their ethics code, placing them at huge liability risk. So, you can rely on the polygraph examiner to keep your records secure, and they won’t share them with anyone else.


Can You Trust the Polygraph Examiner?

Based on what we’ve covered in this article, you should fully understand the examiner’s role in the polygraph test. They are not there to try and trip you up or talk you into admitting to anything. They have one goal in the session: to determine if you’re being deceptive with your answers.

You can trust the examiner to act responsibly during the procedure and to adhere to their code of ethics. If you have any issues with the examiner’s performance and their ethical conduct during the exam, you have the right to pursue legal action against them.

The examiner is well aware of this, and they won’t overstep their legal boundaries. You’re dealing with a professional, and you can expect them to act as such.

Explore More on Polygraph Examinations and Ethical Conduct

For further insights into polygraph tests and the conduct of polygraph examiners, explore these related articles:

Stay informed and protect your rights by understanding polygraph procedures and the ethical standards expected of examiners.


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