Polygraph test information: Part 1

This post is going to cover what one should expect and what not to expect when taking a pre-employment polygraph test.

I decided to do this particular post on polygraph test information because in past months, I have had several friends come to me with a lot of questions, concerns and worries about taking a polygraph test. They say things such as “I know I will be nervous so I know I am not going to do well on the test or I have things in my past and I know that even if I disclose these issues, it will be on my mind and I will not do well on the test.

This post will be written chronologically from scheduling a polygraph test appointment (after one applies for a government job, be it security, law-enforcement, state, county or local municipality) to post test interview at the end.


Usually an applicant is contacted by email to schedule an appointment for the polygraph test. This contact is made by the polygraph examiner. In my case, if I don’t get a response from the applicant on the first email, I would follow up with a second email and also a phone call.

In the email is detailed instructions along with the date and time for the appointment. Instructions on what to bring and to dress comfortably (no suit and tie, no sleeveless tops) wear proper casual business attire. They are encouraged to bring a light snack and bottled water. They are told that this testing process will take two to three and one half hours to complete from beginning to end.

It is rare, but I have had tests take as long as 4 hours. The applicant is instructed to: get a good nights rest (at least 6 hours. I will talk later about the importance of sleep and some experiences I have had with test subjects and this issue) shower, , take prescribed medications (if applicable), and bring a form of government identification to the test site. such as drivers license, state identification card, passport green card etc…

Pre-test questionnaire application.

The application is to be filled out by the applicant prior to coming to the test site. Some polygraph examiners frown on the practice of giving out the polygraph screening booklet prior to coming to the test site. Their reasoning is: 1. Somebody else could fill out or coach the applicant on filling out the polygraph screening booklet. or 2. The applicant could take their original job application and use it to copy answers verbatim to the polygraph screening booklet, to make sure their answers are consistent. Those are issues that I do not worry about.

In reference to reason number one, I review the polygraph screening booklet with the applicant page by page question by question. This pretest interview takes roughly 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Also, when the applicant arrives at the test site, I have them fill out and sign more forms. So, taking all of this into account, there is no problem determining whether an applicant personally filled out the polygraph screening booklet and determining the consistency of their answers.

In reference to reason number two, you would think that an applicant would take a polygraph booklet and put in it, verbatim, everything they put in their job application questionnaire. Surprisingly, I have found this not to be the case. You would not believe how many inconsistencies I come across routinely with applicants, in reference to their employment package and the polygraph screening booklet. The questionnaire can be intense at times.

One of the pros of having the Applicant fill out the screening booklet prior to coming to the test site is “self elimination”. Some Applicants will look at the screening booklet and decide “You know what, this will be revealing more about me than I am uncomfortable with”. Some Applicants have things in their past that they know will disqualify them for a public safety job and decide not to waste their time.

More on the pre-test application.

The pretest application booklet at least here in Maryland is most likely going to be a modification of Maryland State Police’s pretest application polygraph booklet. I have seen screening booklets from other jurisdictions and states and they seemed to be very similar in their set up.

I know with several agencies that I did work for, performing polygraph test, that that was the case. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. 🙂 Polygraph screening was done just using a modified screening booklet from Maryland State Police where questions were modified to reflect that agency’s particular job description.

Most applications will be organized like this.–

**Your initial sensitive data will be asked for.

**Then there will be a new release form that you sign to take the polygraph test. Remember that all polygraph tests are voluntary, nobody can be forced to take a polygraph test. this goes to say, of course if you want the job that you will voluntarily take a polygraph test.

Subject Areas in the Applicant Screening Booklet.

I will now list the areas of the application where information is needed::

** Personal background information.

**** Citizenship

**** Residency


**** Employment

**** Finances

**** Military service

**** Drivers license, records, accidents

**** Alcoholic beverage use

**** Arrests/criminal charges/criminal investigations

****Domestic violence issues

**** Sexual crime issues

**** Serious crime issues/crimes against persons or property

****Theft issues

**** Illegal drug issues

**** Current or prior law enforcement employment., This section is for persons who are already employed in the public safety sector.

As you can see, this questionnaire is very in-depth and personal about a person’s private life. And as it should be. People applying for law enforcement jobs, correctional officer job, security jobs and other security positions, we need to make sure we do not have dirty people in these positions. We have seen the news throughout the last couple years about some dirty cops. Well that’s what polygraph is to help weed out.

I will be going more into the polygraph testing process in future posts.

If you have any comments or questions at all please feel free to add your comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

I looked forward to the comments.

I will soon be posting on what to expect when showing up to the test site Part 2.

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