By Cliff Payne

 In law enforcement and government agencies no management function is more crucial than hiring the right person. Hiring the “wrong” person in the business world can result in loss of sales and customers, in police work the stakes are much higher resulting in danger to the applicant, fellow officers, the public and bad publicity or adverse legal action to the police department.

Many of those who would like to join a law enforcement agency have committed assault, thefts, burglaries, sexual assaults, fraud, homicide, extortion, embezzlement. Some applicants are gang members or members of terrorist organizations on a mission to obtain intelligence information.

Being able to verify past behaviors provides hiring decision makers with sufficient information to make informed decisions. The CVSA interviews and examinations are designed to uncover these relevant past behaviors. Administering the CVSA examination in the early stages of the background investigation will prevent many investigative man-hours from being wasted on less qualified or ineligible applicants.

Preparing for the CVSA Interview: Review the application and talk with the applicant’s background investigator to ascertain any additional information or concerns. Dress professionally, instruct the applicant to arrive in business attire, this sends the message that the CVSA process is important. The interview room should be clean and project a relaxed atmosphere. The desk will be placed to allow the examiner to be seated facing the applicant. When possible, and as per local directives, the interview and CVSA examination should always be videotaped.

 Beginning the CVSA Interview: Establish control of the interview, give the applicant at least two directives (e.g. what chair to sit in and to read, sign and date the consent form). Establish a rapport with the applicant, ask them to tell you a little bit about themselves, explaining that you do not have their application. Also, ask if the applicant has ever taken any type of truth verification examination, i.e. CVSA or polygraph. If the applicant has previously taken a truth verification examination have them elaborate on their previous experience.

Defense Barrier Removal:  Convincing the applicant that passing the CVSA examination is the most important part of the background investigation, grooming the applicant to tell the truth. A good DBR is the cornerstone for pre-employment screening and is the most critical part of the interview. Without good DBR the pre-test admissions are unlikely. Some of the defense barriers of an applicant are fear of being caught lying, fear of the past, fear of not getting the job and embarrassment. The key to successful DBR is sincerity and convincing the applicant that you have their best interest in mind.

Key points to make during DBR: Explain to the applicant that hundreds of US law enforcement agencies, the United States military and federal agencies have used this same CVSA technology all around the world. Explain that the CVSA is the latest technology available in truth verification and is a precise instrument, and that there will not be any inconclusive results. The only reason they would fail this examination is if they lie. Talk up the CVSA instrument, explain why the CVSA is superior to other types of truth verification instruments, establish the superiority of the instrument, at this point the untruthful applicant becomes more concerned about lying and failing the examination. Talk up your own skills, let the applicant know that you are an expert examiner and have conducted hundreds or thousands of CVSA examinations.

Don’t make assumptions:  Don’t assume that an applicant with current or prior law enforcement experience is a quality applicant. The background investigation and truth verification examination they went through previously may have been substandard. Don’t allow yourself to be prejudiced by information from investigating officers. Although a background investigator may think an applicant appears good initially, information revealed during the CVSA examination process may paint an entirely new picture of the applicant.

CVSA pre-test Questionnaire: This questionnaire is given to the applicant after the interview and DBR just prior to the CVSA examination. When you ask the applicant to fill out the questionnaire advise them this will help you, the examiner, to tailor the questions to fit the examinee during the CVSA examination (if necessary to accommodate their past poor judgments). Once you review the questionnaire with the applicant, always remember to ask: “Is there anything that you have not already discussed that you feel may cause you to fail this examination?”

Asking this simple question in many cases will elicit information not previously disclosed by the applicant. The end result of every interview should be to obtain an admission of previously undisclosed information.

Conduct the first chart: Use the Pre-Employment format selection, I recommend using all (31) questions. After completing the first chart, give the transition statement explaining situational stress to the applicant, indicating situational stress is a certain amount of stress that a person may have from doing something for the first time, and that a second chart is always conducted,. Further explain that situational stress will dissipate on a second chart and that any stress displayed on a second chart will be from deception. The Transition Statement reassures to the truthful applicant that situational stress will dissipate with chart two. The Transition Statement reinforces to the non-truthful applicant that if there was stress on chart one that it will not dissipate on chart two and it will become even more evident that they are being untruthful.

Conduct the second chart: Once again copy over all (31) questions. At the conclusion of chart two utilize the FACT scoring algorithm to get an unbiased confirmation of your evaluation or get a cold call. If no deception is indicated on chart two the examination is complete. If deception is present after reviewing the second chart, question the subject as to why the reactions were displayed on the particular question(s). If their response on the second chart is anything other than an admission, revert to DBR in an attempt to obtain a reasonable explanation or admission for their reaction(s).  Be confident about your chart, tell the applicant that the charts clearly indicate that they are not being truthful. Then if necessary, change the question(s) to fit the explanation of preface them with the phrase “Other than what we just discussed”.  Pre-Employment Examinations will almost always require a third chart, the better the pre-test DBR the fewer third chart examinations.

Conduct the third chart: Once again copy over all (31) questions.  Be sure to give the applicant another transition statement. After making changes or modifying the relevant question(s) to fit the admission or explanation and then using the ‘delete’ feature, uncheck the questions the applicant cleared. This will leave only the relevant questions not cleared and their following irrelevant questions. The program will automatically delete the following irrelevant questions. Also, if the irrelevant question is deleted, the previous relevant question will automatically be deleted. The first question, both control questions and their following irrelevant questions cannot be deleted. Be sure to tell the applicant that if they are being truthful with their explanations they will clear the third chart. Review the third chart and use the FACT or get a cold call, if the applicant clearly shows stress on one or more of the questions, do not attempt to run a fourth chart. If you are unsure of the degree of stress displayed on a particular pattern and the block is not ‘obvious’ compare the patterns for that question(s) on all three charts. A deceptive person will normally display a greater degree of stress starting with chart one and continuing to chart three. A truthful applicant will show less blocking on chart three than on chart two. Your conclusion should always be based on the charts.

Pre-Employment testing is the most difficult of the CVSA testing. Please take time to carefully review chapter six pre-employment testing in your new CVSA Operating Manual. I also encourage taking advantage of the specialized training offered at the annual Advanced Examiner’s Course conducted by the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysis (NACVSA).

The information presented here should not be treated as legal research, legal opinion, or legal advice. CVSA examiners are strongly encouraged to consult, work closely with, and abide by the advice of their agency’s legal counsel in regards to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) during the employment process.

“Cliff Payne has 32 years of law enforcement experience.  He retired from the Atlanta Police Department after twenty five years of service, with his last eighteen years in the Background Investigations and Recruitment unit as the senior computer voice stress analyst.  Cliff has been certified as an “expert” examiner by NACVSA, he has over fourteen years of experience as a computer voice stress analyst, and has conducted over 3,000 exams.  He currently lives in the metro Atlanta area where he owns Atlanta Truth Verification Specialist which specializes in CVSA exams and pre-employment background investigation training and consultation.”

 Sample Questions for the Pre-Employment Examination


 Have you used any illegal drugs in the past ____ years?

Have you ever sold illegal drugs?

Do you regularly associate with persons that use illegal drugs?

Have you ever intentionally abused any legal drugs?

Have you ever transported illegal drugs for profit?


Have you ever stolen any currency from an employer?

Have you stolen property valued over $50 from anyone?

Have you taken more than $___ in merchandise from an employer within the past ___years?

Have you shoplifted any merchandise from a store in the past ___ years?

Law Enforcement:

Have you ever intentionally lied during an internal investigation?

Have you ever intentionally lied while under oath?

Have you ever intentionally altered an official police report?

Have you ever had sex with anyone while on duty?

As a police officer, did you ever keep evidence or property for personal use?

As a police officer, have you ever stolen any money from someone you arrested?

Have you ever accepted a bribe?

As a police officer, have you ever consumed alcoholic beverages while on duty?

Have you ever belonged to an anti-government or subversive group or gang?

Have you ever engaged in prostitution or used the services of a prostitute?

Have you committed any serious crimes that you failed to disclose to this agency?

Do you regularly associate with persons known to commit serious crimes?

As a police officer, have you ever been accused of using excessive force?


Have you ever been fired or ask to leave a job that you have not disclosed?

Did you deliberately falsify any oral or written information during this employment process?

Have you ever been fired or pressured to resign from a position?

Have you knowingly withheld any required information during this employment process?

Domestic Assault/Sexual Assault:

Did you ever commit any acts of physical domestic violence?

Have you ever physically abused a household member?

Have you ever been reported for domestic violence?

Have you ever assaulted a child?

Were you ever investigated for any type of abuse?

Have you ever intentionally harmed an elderly person?

Have you ever sexually assaulted another person?

Have you ever engaged in an unlawful sexual act with a minor?

Were you ever a suspect in a sexual abuse case?


Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?

Have you ever had any property repossessed?

Have you ever intentionally passed a check with insufficient funds in your account?

Have you ever been sued?

Fire Fighter:

Have you ever set an illegal fire?

Were you ever a suspect in setting an illegal fire?

Have you ever received sexual gratification involving a fire?

Have you ever set off a false fire alarm?

Have you ever stolen any equipment from a fire truck?

Have you ever stolen any equipment from a fire department?