Law Enforcement Applications and the Polygraph Test

As a 30-year law enforcement officer involved in recruitment and now a senior mentor at anEDGE, a company specializing in mentoring and coaching law enforcement applicants, I am always asked questions about the polygraph test. 

So here is my real-life experience. It is estimated that less than 1 in 5 police applicants have done anything serious enough in the past to completely exclude them from a career in policing. 

We all have things in our history that we are not proud of, but the simple fact is very few of those things will result in a flat-out “thanks, but no thanks” from any of the RC MP or Municipal Police agencies. 

Despite that, and police application processes have many challenging stages, the polygraph is often the most concerning. 

Some of the common questions from applicants I am mentoring are, 

  • How do I pass the police polygraph test?
  • What if I fail the polygraph test?
  • How do I beat the polygraph test?
  • What questions will I be asked in the polygraph test?
  • What kind of things from my past is the polygraph examiner going to ask me about? 

A quick Google search will reveal the above questions and more, plus many opinions and articles based on them. Some articles contain factual and valuable information, but many more must be read. 

However, the problem with asking or google searching for the answers to the above questions is that you need to ask the right questions. 

Better questions are, or should be: 

  • Why do people fail the polygraph?
  • How do I make the polygraph the most straightforward stage?
  • What can I do so as not to worry about the polygraph? 

The answer to all the questions above is a very simple one. 

To make the polygraph a non-issue, be completely open and honest when filling out and submitting your Police Application and Lifestyle/Background Questionnaire

People do not fail the polygraph because of what they have done in the past. If what they had done was an issue, they would not have let them get to the polygraph stage. They fail because they have not disclosed something at the initial application phase or have tried to minimize an event to make it seem less of a potential issue. Then, when they get to the polygraph, they are asked some specific questions, which may vary depending on their initial application forms. Still, they/you will be asked, “Have you been completely open and honest in the application process”? 

Put, disclose everything openly, honestly, and ultimately, no matter how big or small. That way, the polygraph will be the easiest and most exciting part of your journey through any police application process. 

As a police applicant mentor at anEDGE,  I always tell my clients, 

“I have been polygraphed as an applicant and found it fascinating as the person being tested. I honestly enjoyed the whole experience.” 

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