Lies and Lying: What is the easiest way to catch a liar? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Ask them about a failure.
I took a call with the founder of a marketing agency who wanted to partner with our venture capital firm. The founder couldn't stop talking about the company's accomplishments.
"We've made our clients a lot of money! And we work with the best startups."
I was getting impatient because he wasn't explaining how he could help us. He kept talking about himself.
I was a little fishy about his approach, so I used my trick to identify bullshitters.
"Tell me about a time when your client didn't get their desired result. A time when you failed."
I was looking to see if he would take responsibility for the failure. If he did, then I knew he was worth putting in touch with our startups.
After each of his statements, here's how my thought process went:
"They were the worst company."
He should've said, "We didn't do a good job at vetting the company."
"They had unrealistic expectations."
He should've said, "We didn't set the right expectations."
"They didn't have enough leverage with their current assets."
He should've said, "We didn't take enough time to investigate the value of their assets."
I stopped listening.
Knowing how to deal with failure is a critical piece of success. If you blame others, then you won't improve.
It shows you have an ego and fail to take responsibility when things go south.
That's a sign you're a bullshitter.