Ten time-tested pieces of advice for
getting ahead in the polygraph screening
1. Know the Potential Problem Areas:
Before you pick up your subject, review
your file and try to anticipate potential
problems. This does not mean entering
an examination with a predetermined
examination outcome, rather, it means
we should always be prepared.
2. Create Breakdown “Shells”: Make
sure you have breakdown tests (templates)
drafted and ready for each relevant
screening question. Prepare at least the
ones that you anticipate will be potential
problems. Questions can be quickly
edited to fit a particular subject.
3. Equipment Readiness: Make sure your
instrumentation is functioning properly,
that your printer has plenty of paper, and
you have a spare ink cartridge available.
Wasted time as a result of equipment
failure should be minimal.
4. Pick up Your Subjects on Time: Do
this for a while and it becomes a good,
hard-to-break habit. Not only do we
waste time by not picking up subjects on
time, but we can cause for them a great
deal of anxiety and impatience while they
wait for us. None of us likes waiting for
5. Learn to Analyze Your Own Charts:
Read your charts, as much as possible, as
they are being produced, yet still monitor
your subject for evidence of fatigue or
non-cooperation. Without really thinking
about it, questions that evoke significant
reactions draw your attention more than
questions that don’t. After collecting your
charts, take a second, confirmatory look
and numerically evaluate if using that
type of format.
6. Avoid Collecting Useless Charts: Do
not continue cranking out charts that
are uninterpretable or invalid. If charts
are erratic, there is usually a good reason.
Think things through and try to come
up with the most logical reasons and
solutions for them.
7. Be Up Front with Your Subjects: Do
not hesitate to quickly let your subject
know that you have identified a Specific
Response issue. Problems—real or
perceived—have to be resolved quickly
or you can count on a bring-back (or an
extended session). The more you work
at this, the more polished and successful
you will be.
8. Persistence: Stay with your subject
as long as it takes to identify and resolve
problems. Coming out of the room to take
a break or to chit-chat about your case is
not productive. Sooner or later you can
bet that these things will be interpreted
as incompetence, or attempts to dodge
the hard work required to resolve most
9. Avoid Irrelevant Discussions:
Relevant issues cannot be resolved
by discussing irrelevant topics. Every
minute counts in the examining room,
so there should be a clear, relevant goal
in mind with every conversation.
10. Stay with Your Subject: Remember
that no examiner can resolve even the
simplest issue if separated from the
subject. It’s extremely difficult to gain a
meaningful admission or confession with
a wall between you and your subject.