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Firefighter Polygraph - What To Expect & How To Beat It

The firefighter polygraph can be stressful, here's the best way we know how to prepare.

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The Firefighter Polygraph – What To Expect and How To Beat It

As most fire departments are trying to recruit and maintain the best candidates for their department, they are constantly looking for newer and better ways to screen out poor applicants.  Before applying for the job, most applicants are aware of the minimum qualifications they must possess.  This includes things like a clean driving record, no felonies and a generally positive work history.  However, the departments don’t always rely solely on the background investigation, but also a firefighter polygraph test.  It is not only important for you to understand ahead of time what to expect before you walk into the test but also how to answer the questions properly.

How Does A Polygraph (or Voice Stress Analysis) Test Work?

A polygraph test is also known as a lie detector test. A firefighter polygraph test is usually conducted to measure physiological factors such as blood pressure, perspiration, pulse, and skin conductivity, movement and more. One is generally asked questions before and during the test. Whenever an individual gives any deceptive answers, the theory is that they will also have a physiological response different from when one offers various answers.   It’s also important to note there is another form of a polygraph known as a voice stress analysis test (CVSA).  This test is less involved than the others in that it only measures the amount of stress in your voice.  Supposedly, this is a viable alternative to the traditional test.

As the test continues, all the signals of the individual are recorded on paper or electronically. After the test, the polygraph examiner usually checks the graphs to determine if there is any significant change in the various physiological factors or voice stress. For example, if there is a faster pulse rate, higher blood pressure, or increased perspiration, it is supposedly an indication of deception on the part of the candidate.

How To Prepare For A Polygraph

Understand how the polygraph works. Ensure that you do not over think the test; you must try to relax before and during the test. Spending too much time thinking about possible questions and answers may cause you to panic, and the test will not turn out well. Also, ensure you get plenty of rest the night before.

How Do You Pass A Polygraph Test?

Pretty simple, tell the truth when answering questions. Ensure that you take your time while answering the questions; you may ask the examiner to repeat.

A few tips to remember…

  1. The polygraph or CVSA will usually be administered by either a detective or a private company. THIS PERSON IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.  When you sit down to interview they will ask you many questions and try to build rapport with you.  Don’t take the bait.  This person’s job is to try to catch you in a lie.
  2. The best answer for you to give is HONEST but VAGUE. For example, you will probably be asked if you have ever stolen anything from an employer.  You think and think and remember one time you inadvertently went home with a pen; thus, you stole.  The examiner may proceed to ask follow up questions like, “are you sure that’s the only thing you’ve ever stolen?” “how long ago was this” “be more specific” “how can you be sure that only happened once” and so on.
  3. If you are questioned on specific dates and times your best answer is always, “I don’t recall.”
  4. Ultimately, the polygraph examiner may claim you’re lying about something you know you didn’t lie about. That’s part of the process.  That is usually a sign that the particular department you are applying to is looking for another candidate.

Most departments don’t actually take polygraph/CVSA tests seriously.  IT IS STRICTLY USED AS A TOOL TO DENY A CANDIDATE THEY MAY NOT WANT.  I’ve met several people who had told me they lied on their polygraph and it came back as showing no deception.