Very new to contracting and never worked in a “cleared environment”. I was noticeably younger than everyone there in processing that day. I assumed that it would be a breeze due to the fact that ive never even worked in a classified environment, never been read on, etc. Well, I was battered for about 5 hours on the first day, was told im lying, told I was doing something to throw off the machine. Next day, a way nicer guy is my polygrapher, older, softer tone. We go through everything again and he said that im throwing off the machine, and im showing irregular responses when hes not even asking questions. It was laughable and felt like they were breaking my b*lls for hours. I held my ground, and kind of fired back when I was accused of being dishonest. They want me back AGAIN for a 3rd poly. What is going on? These people are just playing with me because im young and inexperienced? Im wondering if im just wasting my time going again, or im on the brink of success. Its a big financial burden on me to get back to DC.
Take a deep breath … its all part of the process you are not discriminated bcoz of age…
The thing to understand about polygraphy is that it has no scientific basis. It’s all about interrogation and badgering the subject for admissions. In your case, it looks like you may have been suspected of having used polygraph countermeasures (when you were told that you were doing something to “throw off” the machine). But they are evidently not confident in that accusation, or you would not have been invited back for a third session.
I have composed a list of common polygraph pitfalls to avoid that you may find helpful. I wrote it for federal law enforcement applicants, but it generally applies to CI-scope polygraphs as well:
If you are applying for a federal job that requires pre-employment polygraph screening, there are certain behaviors you will wish to avoid in order to mitigate the risk of wrongly failing—an all too common occurrence. Here’s a list:
Common Polygraph Pitfalls to Avoid
Breathing slowly and regularly. The federal polygraph school at Fort Jackson, South Carolina teaches students that a normal breathing rate is 15-30 cycles (in and out) per minute. Anything outside of that range is considered abnormal and may result in an accusation of deception or attempted countermeasure use (which is much worse than simply failing the polygraph). Nonetheless, many people, even truthful ones with nothing to hide, when put in a stressful situation like a polygraph interrogation, will start breathing slowly and regularly in an attempt to remain calm. Don’t do that.
Deep breathing. When you take a deep breath, it causes a spike on the electrodermal channel of the polygraph. Polygraph operators interpret that as an attempted countermeasure. Don’t take deep breaths.
Physical movement. You are expected to sit still during the “in-test” phase of the polygraph session, when you’re wired up and the operator is asking you a series of questions that will be reviewed in advance. If you have a nervous habit of tapping a finger, a toe, or shaking a leg, do your best to keep it under control. It may be mistaken for a countermeasure attempt.
Explaining why you might have reacted to a question. If, at the conclusion of your polygraph session, you’ve told the truth, and yet the polygraph operator accuses you of withholding information and asks what you were thinking about that might have caused you to react to any of the relevant questions, the only correct answer is, “I was thinking about the question you asked and my truthful answer.” If your polygrapher accuses you of withholding information at the end of polygraph session, it means you’ve failed. You are disqualified at that point, and the polygraph operator is not going to “go to bat for you” with headquarters. Federal polygraph operators are rated based on the percentage of post-test confessions they obtain after a failed test. They have a strong incentive to characterize anything you might say as an admission that you lied.
As an example, suppose you truthfully admitted during the pre-test phase that you smoked marijuana 3 times while in high school back in 2012. You’re certain of this. Yet the polygraph operator accuses you of “having a problem” with the drug use question, and asks whether you might feel more comfortable stating that you used marijuana “less than ten times,” and asks you to sign a statement to that effect. When you sign that statement that you used marijuana “less than ten times” rather than the 3 times you stated during the pre-test, this will be taken as a post-test confession. You’ll be permanently branded as a liar not only with the agency that polygraphed you, but all federal agencies. Sign no statements.
Signing any statement agreeing that you “altered or manipulated your physiology.” For a federal polygraph operator, nothing is more precious than obtaining an admission from an examinee that he or she tried to beat the polygraph. As a consequence, false accusations of attempted polygraph countermeasures are common, and numerous applicants have been duped into signing statements that suggest they tried to beat the polygraph, when in fact they did not. For example, one U.S. Customs and Border Protection applicant tried to remain calm during his pre-employment polygraph session by thinking calming thoughts of his young daughter. He admitted this during a post-test interrogation during which he was asked what he was thinking about. His polygraph operator asked him to put this in a written statement and sign it, which he did, thinking that he needed to do so in order to continue in the hiring process. His innocent admission was reported to CBP’s polygraph unit as a confession that he used countermeasures in an attempt to beat the polygraph. This statement will forever torpedo his career prospects with CBP and other federal agencies. Such statements often include a spoon-fed statement by the subject that he or she “purposefully manipulated my physiology in an attempt to alter the outcome” of the polygraph examination. Again, sign no statements.
When you’re hooked up to the polygraph instrument, you had better not take a deep breath. Polygraph operators construe that as a polygraph countermeasure.
The polygraph is not a lie detector. It is a pressure technique, to get people to reveal things that they otherwise would not. The real interrogation is the discussion before and after, not when you’re actually hooked up.
For what it’s worth, no one enjoys the experience, and yours doesn’t sound too atypical. They didn’t have to offer you a third attempt, so that that as a positive
You might well contemplate whether you are wasting your time, and to what extent you are willing to allow yourself to be subjected to such demeaning treatment. See this Personal Statement of a CIA Analyst. She decided not to take it anymore.
I think the original question was whether or not it is unusual to have to go back three times. If that was the question the answer would be no, not unusual. Some agencies don’t let you get that far so at least you have the chance to go back.
Are you on the brink of success? Impossible to say.