The third applicant, Andrea Stover, entered the interview room and sat down. She smiled. I noticed her pulse beating quickly in her throat. The data overlay from my Verimeter glasses highlighted seven other indicators of increased tension; their baselines adjusted for the applicant’s current emotional state and we began.
“Lie to me,” I said.
“My name is Maria Sinope. I grew up in Athens, Ohio and attended Stanford University.”
None of the Verimeter indicators lit up. I smiled at the young woman. “Nice to meet you, Andrea. Tell me why you’re interested in this position.”
“Well, obviously it’s a prestigious job which would leave me well-positioned for future career opportunities.” She hesitated just a second. “And, I know this might seem strange, but in a way I feel it’s an opportunity to do something good for the world.” Four of the indicators flared, two of them deep crimson. I went through the motions of the rest of the interview, but she’d already failed the test.
I spoke with two more candidates before lunch. Number Five got farther into the process than any of the others before he, too, was detected lying by the Verimeter.
In the cafeteria, Senator Karlsson walked up to me. “My niece interviewed today.”
He nodded. “Andrea Stover.” Number Three. “Do you think she’s got a chance?”
I met Karlsson’s eyes, each of us looking through our Verimeter glasses. I took a careful breath and replied, “The same chance as all the others.” It was, in a sense, true. But Karlsson — or rather the Verimeter — saw through my statement. He frowned and walked away without another word.
In the afternoon, Numbers Six through Ten were all disappointments. These were people who’d made it past the resume stage and background check. We’d hoped there would be multiple viable candidates. Right then I was hoping for even one I could justifiably recommend to my boss.
Eleven, Thomas Nash, was the next-to-last one for the day. He came into the room, relaxed as could be, and sat down across from me. The Verimeter metrics all reset themselves to match his behavioral and involuntary response profile.
“Lie to me,” I said.
“I have no interest in this job besides the paycheck. I suspect that the woman I’d be working for doesn’t have the first clue what she’s doing. Your tie is hideous. Also, it’s purple.”
My hand went to my tie — green, just like all of the Verimeter indicators.
“Insulting the interviewer. An interesting approach.”
He cracked a little smile before returning to his neutral expression. I ran through the questions and scenarios. He sailed through them with ease.
I looked Nash over; he seemed as relaxed as the moment he’d walked in the door. If he was simply preternaturally calm, this next one would trip him up.
“Tell me the truth about something and make me believe you are lying.”
“The downturn in financial markets over the past half year has significantly impaired President Anderson’s standing in the race for the White House. The decline in her approval ratings suggests that re-election is quite unlikely.”
That was all, unfortunately, quite true. Yet the sensors in my overlay were going nuts.
Nash leaned back, a confident smile on his face. “I don’t have a chance in hell at this job, do I?”
The Verimeter was back to normal readings, but I knew he couldn’t possibly be unaware of how well he had done just now. Showoff.
I felt my heart racing, but kept my voice studiously even. “We’ve got to review all of today’s results,” I said. “I can’t tell you how it will turn out, but you should hear back from us in the next few days.” I was glad candidates weren’t allowed to wear their own glasses during the interview.
I hurried through Number Twelve’s interview with a disinterest that bordered on unprofessional. But he had no chance. I’d never come across someone who could be as convincing at lying and as unconvincing at telling the truth as Thomas Nash.
After seeing Twelve out the door, I typed up a few short notes on his interview and rushed to my boss’s office. His assistant said that he was in, and sent me back.
Chief of Staff Leeson held up a finger and I waited as he finished his phone call.
“Tell me you have good news, Mark,” he said after ending his conversation.
I set my report on Nash on his desk. He read it over and a smile spread across his face.
“This guy’s the real deal, isn’t he?” Leeson said when he was done.
I nodded. “Absolutely, sir. You can tell the President that there’s one less thing for her to worry about.” It didn’t matter what technologies people came up with, there would always be people who could find ways to outwit them, and Press Secretary for the President was one of the best jobs on Earth for one of those elite few.
Michael Haynes lives in Central Ohio where he helps keep IT systems running for a large corporation during the day and puts his characters through the wringer by night. An ardent short story reader and writer, Michael has had stories appear in venues such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and Every Day Fiction. He is the Editor for the monthly flash fiction contests run by Kazka Press and is an Associate Editor for the Unidentified Funny Objects series of anthologies. His website is www.michaelhaynes.info.