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I consider the request of a polygraph a complete deal breaker. I understand that a lot of companies in South Africa give employers the option to request one in the employment contract. I still will never do one. The moment I'm asked for one is the moment right before I sign my resignation letter. I feel that strongly about it.

I'm specifically asking about non-governmental front-end web development. I have no idea how to hack anything and I for now don't see myself dealing with any business finances other than the little bit of after-hours work I may do for petty cash

A polygrap is voluntary and nobody can be forced to do one. It is not admissible in court. Refusing to do one is not an admission of guilt and every ex-policeman doing them knows that all it really tests is anxiety levels. So what exactly is the point?

I just wanted to know how widespread this is in Web Development and if I refuse to do one is it going to ruin my career?

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    Are you asking about a specific industry or a specific country? I'm sure nobody ever did one when programming webshops in Western Europe, but I would also not be surprised to hear it's mandatory when programming things for the CIA or FSB in the respective countries.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 17 at 6:15
  • "So what exactly is the point?" I suspect some people may believe they are able to "fool" the polygraph test. So, even if it is absolutely purely voluntary, the employer may still be able to "catch" people with it. Feb 17 at 6:29
  • And can you clarify the scope of the question? It's tagged with pre-screening, but you mention you will resign if asked to do one? Feb 17 at 6:29
  • Ok I have made edits that I hope improves the question.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 17 at 7:03
  • I'm uncertain about the tags. Any advice on them from experienced users on this site would be highly appreciated.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 17 at 7:05

2 Answers 2

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I just wanted to know how widespread this is in Web Development and if I refuse to do one is it going to ruin my career?

Not an expert in your locale, but I've never heard polygraph for candidate outside government-related positions as you specifically ask... or if I did I don't recall it now.

Anyways, if you refuse it will not ruin your career (you are always free to change your mind at any time and stop a hiring process or decline). Of course, it will close the door to that opportunity with that company, and you would have to resume job-seeking. It could also raise some eyebrows, as people may wonder why so reluctant to take one.

If you decline, remember to do it politely and professionally.

However, I would suggest you reconsider your posture, as perhaps you could be missing a very good job or your dream position just because they have an unorthodox/silly requirement and you have nothing to hide... of course, just a suggestion, as I reckon I would also feel uncomfortable if asked for one.

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  • The thing is I have anxiety problems. I will probably auto fail the test just because of the stress of the interrogation. There is also the hubris of an employer expecting employees to prove there innocence to them. Something which I have an in intense dislike for.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 17 at 8:33
  • I took a bit of a look at this, apparently it's becoming more and more common in ZA for this. Feb 17 at 11:40
  • @NeilMeyer If you would be asked to do a polygraph, decline it politely and mention that you have anxiety problems and believe that you might not represent yourself accurately in a polygraph test. Feb 17 at 15:22
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I'm specifically asking about non-governmental front-end web development. I have no idea how to hack anything and I for now don't see myself dealing with any business finances other than the little bit of after-hours work I may do for petty cash

I'm taking the other route here and say this may be standard for people who handle cash. In your case you handle petty cash and while it may be little it could snowball if you skim a little here and a little there and over the years you could have 1000s of dollars stolen from them. So yes, it sounds reasonable to me that you handle cash.

However, in those cases, I would say a basic credit check is sufficient but you may be very young so your credit history isn't really there so they might want to do a polygraph test instead.

I just wanted to know how widespread this is in Web Development and if I refuse to do one is it going to ruin my career?

That's hard to say. Is there a way you could say you don't want to handle the petty cash part and to give it to someone else? That way they don't have any worry of you stealing cash from them?

Otherwise, yes, it might be bad for your career. I'm going to say the polygraph test would simply ask about how honest you are. Such questions like if you ever stole something or if you did something dishonest. I think if you answer honestly and truthfully, you should be okay even if the answer is truthfully dishonest or a theft. They would also consider your age and how long ago it happened, not necessarily that they want someone who never stole anything. They're looking at the whole person, the circumstances, and just overall history. Of course, my experience with polygraphs involve government side so I wouldn't know how they'd be handled in private sector where they might look at it differently.

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