Are you scheduled for a polygraph exam? Maybe you’re taking a pre-employment lie detector test, or your boss is screening the staff because of inventory theft. Regardless of the reason for the exam, undergoing a polygraph is an unnerving experience for most people.

We put together this post to give you some tips on successfully making it through the lie detector exam. However, we must warn you that our suggestions are for people with nothing to hide. If you’re guilty of something, there’s a 97% chance the polygraph will reveal anything you try to hide during the exam.


Understanding the Reasons for Polygraph Testing in the Workplace

Employers use polygraphs as part of their HR processes when hiring people and testing their current employees. The “Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” (EPPA) is legislation stipulating what employers can and can’t do when implementing a workplace polygraph policy.

If employers violate these rules, they risk the US Labor Department investigating the matter if they receive a formal complaint from an employee or candidate. Violating the EPPA results in huge fines for the business, which may jeopardize its finances and ability to continue operations.

Let’s look at the reasons why employers use polygraph policies and the legality behind them.


Pre-Employment Screening

The introduction of the EPPA largely did away with employers’ ability to use lie detector tests in pre-employment screening. Before the introduction of the Act, companies would unfairly use polygraphs to turn away candidates they didn’t want to work for their firm. They would claim the polygraph results forced them to decline their application when the real reason was they didn’t like the applicant’s race or ethnicity.

While the EPPA curtailed these practices, certain loopholes allow companies in specific industries to implement workplace polygraph policies. For instance, firms involved in security, high-value asset transport and storage, and pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution can use the pre-employment polygraph as part of the hiring process.

The reason for these industries being able to use polygraphs is to prevent criminals or bad actors from entering the organization. For instance, an armed cash transportation business wouldn’t want to hire a suspected bank robber who might plan an armed robbery using information they learn on the job.


Random or Specific Testing

The EPPA also protects employees from their employers using polygraphs on them for random testing at work. However, there are provisions in the Act allowing employers to implement polygraph policies in the event of specific circumstances occurring at their organization.

For instance, if an employee claims their colleague sexually harassed them, it’s a big deal for the company. However, they might be falsely accusing their co-worker in an attempt to get them fired because of a personal dispute.

Or the company might experience an inventory theft, presenting a significant economic loss to the business. In these cases, a polygraph can assist the employer with judging the validity of the employee’s SH allegations or uncovering the thief responsible for the missing inventory.

However, employees have a right, under the EPPA, to refuse their employer’s request to take the exam. If the employer pressures them into taking the test or reprimands them for their choice, they violate the EPPA.


What Can You Expect from the Polygraph Exam Session?

Most people don’t have any experience with taking a polygraph exam. So, their fear of the unknown causes them to feel nervous about taking the test. That’s a natural response; we don’t like being in situations we know nothing about, especially when it may potentially affect our work and livelihood.

The polygraph analyzes the examinee’s responses to the polygraph examiner’s questions. You’ll have to sign paperwork saying you consent to the test before you take it, and the employer must give you at least 48 hours notice of the test.

On test day, you’ll arrive at the exam room and sit in a high-back chair to the examiner’s side. They’ll connect you to the instrumentation that monitors your vital signs before connecting those apparatus to their laptop.

The polygraph exam looks for activating the “fight-or-flight” (FoF) response during the test to determine whether you behave deceptively. The FoF is an autonomic stress response, and its impossible to control it consciously.

The stress of the situation combined with the need to lie triggers the FoF when the examiner asks you a question to which you have to respond with a lie. They’ll keep asking the question and note your responses. In a nutshell, you fail the test if you can’t explain why you produce this physiological response.

However, with the right preparation for the test, you’ll ensure the polygraph gets an accurate reading of your responses and the best outcome possible.


How to Prepare for the Polygraph Exam

Proper preparation is the key to successfully passing your polygraph exam. Read up all you can about the test the day before our exam. Learning how the polygraph works will eliminate the fear of the unknown. You’ll find that this strategy dramatically reduces the nerves you feel around taking the test.

It’s not illegal or against the polygraph policy to research how it works; the examiner will appreciate it if you take the time to do it. The next tip is to stick to your routine. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary the day before your exam. For instance, going out partying the night before the test is a bad idea.

Instead, get a good night’s sleep, go to bed, and wake up normally. Download a guided meditation from YouTube and listen to it on your phone the night before your test to help you fall asleep.

Repeat this the next day in the 30 minutes before taking your exam. When you enter the exam room to take the lie detector test, speak to the examiner about any questions you have – they’re there to make you feel comfortable with the process.


7 Tips for Success with Employment Polygraph Tests

Ow that you know how to prepare properly for the polygraph exam, let’s run through seven tips to ensure you have the best experience possible and the best chances of a successful outcome.


Tip #1 – Be Honest

The first tip is the most obvious – be honest with the examiner. You’ll receive a copy of the examiner’s questions before taking the test. If one of the questions makes you feel nervous, ask them about it. For instance, one of the questions might be, “have you used illegal drugs or abused prescription medication in the last 18 months?”

You might have been addicted to prescription painkillers five years ago and had to go to rehab to kick the habit. While that was longer than 18 months ago, you’re worried about how you might respond to the lie detector when asked this question.

The examiner will listen to you unpack the details of your drug use and your recovery. When they reach the question, they modify it to something like, “besides what you told me about your previous drug use, have you used any other illegal drugs or abused or misused any other prescription medication in the last 18 months?”

The phrasing of the question and your disclosure won’t activate the FoF; you’ll pass that question because of your honesty.


Tip #2 – Don’t Over Complicate Answers

The lie detector exam involves the examiner asking you five to seven questions regarding the parameters they discuss with the client when formulating the polygraph policy. As mentioned, you have access to all of these questions before the exam starts.

When the examiner asks you a question during the test, you’ll reply with either yes or no. Don’t give them a lengthy explanation, it confuses the lie detector device, and the examiner will ask you to answer in a yes or no format.


Tip #3 – Pay Attention in the Pre-Exam Briefing

Before the examiner starts the lie detector test, they’ll explain the process to you and ask you if you have any questions. As mentioned, the examiner’s job is to make you feel comfortable taking the test. They don’t have authority over you and can’t force you to remain in the exam room if you want to leave.

If you feel your anxiety building to the state where it might induce a panic attack, you have the right to leave, and they can’t stop you from doing so. You’ll feel nervous during the briefing, but listen to what the examiner tells you.

They review your rights with you and the questions they’ll ask during the session. If you have any queries, ask them, don’t overlook them.


Tip #4 – Let the Examiner Know If You’re Feeling Nervous

It’s common for people to feel nervous on the day of the test. This anxiety will peak when you enter the exam room and the examiner starts hooking you up to the instrumentation and the polygraph. If you’re feeling nervous, tell the examiner.

It’s especially important to reveal you’re anxious state if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. The examiner doesn’t want you to freak out as they start taking the test. The examiner will tell you that it’s common to feel nervous, and they’re expecting you to feel slightly anxious – it’s a normal reaction to the situation.

In fact, not being nervous is a bit of a red flag to the examiner. It might signal that they’re dealing with a pathological liar or someone using a countermeasure drug to adjust their nervous system response.


Tip #5 – Notify the Examiner If You Use Medication

One of the strategies guilty people use to “beat” the polygraph is an anti-anxiety medication, like Xanax, before they step into the exam room. Drugs like Xanax and beta-blockers suppress the nervous system’s response to environmental stimuli.

As a result, guilty people use it to try and suppress the FoF when they take the lie detector test. However, millions of people have genuine anxiety disorders. These individuals also have prescriptions from their doctors for drugs like Xanax.

If you have a legal prescription for anti-anxiety medication, mention it to the examiner before you start the test. It’s a similar process to what we discussed earlier with drug abuse. Tell the examiner about your prescription and show it to them.

The examiner will adjust their line of questioning as mentioned previously. While many think these drugs act as countermeasures, the reality differs from what they expect. The polygraph machine is highly sensitive, and a trained, experienced examiner will pick up that you’re using this medication.


Tip #6 – Don’t Drink Caffeine Before the Exam

Stay away from drinking too much coffee or energy drinks before the exam. The beverages contain caffeine, a nervous system stimulant, with an eight-hour half-life. That means the substance stays in your bloodstream for eight hours before it wears off.

The coffee ramps up your nervous system response, making you feel on edge and anxious – that’s not the best state of mind when you’re undergoing a polygraph exam. Drink water and stay hydrated instead.


Tip #7– Be Professional and Treat the Examiner with Respect

When you meet the examiner, they’ll greet you in a friendly manner and do their best to make you at ease with taking the polygraph exam. They are professionals, and they act as such. As mentioned, the examiner has extensive training and a duty to you and your client.

The examiner abides by a code of ethics, and they won’t violate it during the exam by acting as an authority figure. So, treat the examiner with the same level of respect. Don’t get angry with them – they’re just doing their job.

If you must leave the exam room because you feel anxious, tell them and wait for them to remove the instrumentation from your body. Don’t rip it off and walk out, it’s expensive equipment, and they’ll only end up charging your boss or prospective employer for the cost of replacing it.


In Closing – Follow the Plan, and You’ll Be Fine

After reading this post, you have a strategy for helping you get the best possible outcome from your polygraph exam. Follow the plan, and you’ll be fine.


Uncover the Truth with a Professional Lie Detector Test – Our Carefully Vetted Examiners Ensure Your Peace of Mind.