VSA Pre-Employment Testing

Voice Stress Analysis Pre-Employment Testing Made Easier!

Voice Stress Analysis Pre-Employment Testing Made Easier!

by Robert Martin, CEO, VIPRE Technology Group, LLC

July 2023

Pre-Employment Testing

VSA Examiners must always keep in mind that all exams are part of an overall process of' the “detection of deception” technique, but not, as often misquoted, lie detection. The polygraph and voice stress analyzers are not “Lie Detectors” they are stress detectors. Examiners must keep in mind that the pre-employment screening examination utilizes all protocols studied in regarding criminal-specific examinations.

Criminal vs. Screening Exams

Examiners must be aware that criminal case testing is much more specific and direct, whereas pre-employment exams are more general in scope and inquiry. Also, examiners are taught to keep their relevant questions to a minimum when conducting criminal case examinations. Many times, a criminal case exam will have only two relevant questions. Yet, an examiner can ask up to twelve relevant questions during a pre-employment examination, why? As will be discussed further on, consider asking the minimum questions necessary to vet the examinee and establish credibility.


Once again, the reason most often stated is that the lack of specificity is the answer. Examiners must ask themselves have I ever experienced an individual becoming over-sensitized by the continued repeat of the same questions and is it, also, possible that someone may become (5)desensitized for the same reason? The answer of course is yes. If they become more stressed due to the repetition than to the question itself, their charts will display results that are due to the induced situational stress as opposed to the overall stress brought about by the question content.

Repeating Questions

Further, some subjects may experience the complete opposite by believing that the examiner is unsure of the results and unable to render a decision, hence, the examiner is asking that question again in an attempt to clarify the final result. The subject becomes conditioned to believe he is winning the battle and no longer is stressed by the question itself. The subject has gained a false bravado and their stress is reduced. Examiners must ask themselves how can I combat these types of scenarios. Pre-employment relevant question reduction is the answer. How can an examiner achieve such an endeavor?

Asking the Right Question

Examiners must keep in mind that the background investigators also have a job to do in the attempt to screen applicants. Most often the majority of that investigation should be completed before the VSA exam is conducted. The examiner should not only review the background investigation report but also speak with the author to ascertain if they may have some areas that need further clarification that could not be obtained. Do not allow non-examiners to formulate or dictate the relevant questions. It has been observed that departments seek information in the Personal History Statement that can and should be verified by the background investigator. The amount of important relevant questions can be reduced if a thorough background investigation is conducted. A question such as “Are all debts paid up to date?” could easily be answered with a simple credit history and should not take up valuable relevant question space in the examination.

Situational Stress

The examiner must always keep in mind that fewer questions provide better results, not only for the examiner but also for the examinee. Remember that the examinee is most likely very nervous about the test, to begin with, and you do not want to increase that situational stress due to your actions or procedures.

The VSA Examiner should concern himself with the major common areas of concern with regard to all law enforcement pre-employment tests as follows:

  1. Personal History
  2. Known negative information
  3. Employment background
  4. Criminal behavior, i.e. domestic violence, deviant behavior, etc.
  5. Illegal Drug/alcohol use

The examiner must keep in mind that if indeed the subject has previous law enforcement experience, the questions utilized must take into account the necessary concerns. Most often these questions will concern falsifying official reports, integrity, and unethical acts. All VSA Examiners are taught to keep the questions brief and to the point in their attempt to clarify and rectify, all while obtaining admissions and or confessions throughout the entire interview and testing process. (6)

Keeping Questions Brief

Always keep in mind that oftentimes less is more. When it comes to question formulation and implementation this practice is extremely important. The experienced VSA Examiner must make every effort to utilize only the number of questions that provide the desired results. Relevant question saturation will not provide meaningful results. It was mentioned prior that an experienced examiner will rarely utilize more than two or three relevant questions in a criminal case. Pre-employment exams require more questions but in most cases eight relevant questions should suffice and provide the most valid results as opposed to utilizing every relevant space in the pre-employment test format. Experienced VSA Examiners do not make “Mountains out of Mole Hills,” they make “Mole Hills out of Mountains!”1,2

1 Martin, R. (2023, March 10). Curriculum vitae. Linkedin Profile. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from

2 Martin, R., Hughes, D., & Rice, L.; (2016); VIPRE Voice Stress Training Manual; VIPRE Technology Group, LLC, Orlando, Florida. International Association of Voice Stress Analysts: Journal of Credibility Assessment Techniques (Vol 1, Num 1) (7)

About the Author

Robert "Bob" Martin is a retired Investigative Bureau Commander with 25 years of service with the Lower Township, New Jersey Police Department. During his tenure as a law enforcement officer Bob received extensive training in interview/interrogation techniques and attended the National Training Center of Polygraph Science (NTCPS). While attending NTCPS, Bob was recognized with the highest of class honors by renowned polygraph examiner and instructor Richard O. Arther, a stalwart examiner in the polygraph profession. Subsequently, Bob obtained certification in the operation of the computer voice stress analyzer under the tutelage of David A. Hughes, commonly referred to as the Dean of Voice Stress Analysis. Additionally, Bob has been a POST-certified instructor in numerous basic and advanced law enforcement disciplines since 1976. Since 1997, Bob has trained more than 3500 individuals in the use and application of Voice Stress Analysis (VSA). Bob has also been instrumental in the development of voice stress analysis training programs and has written numerous articles for publications concerning voice stress analysis and its use in law enforcement. Bob has authored two books; “The Thick Blue Line” and the “Interviewer's Handbook.”



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