Every day we use interview skills without even knowing it, during general conversations. However, when the time comes to conduct an investigative interview, we question whether we are any good at it.
To begin with, that is a bad question: “Tell me where you think my investigative interview skills are weaknesses are?” is a much better one. This is an example of an open question.
Usually, clients will use closed questions as opposed to open ones. Who, what, when, where, why, how? In suspect interviews they will always to be ready to show their ‘evidence’ at the earliest opportunity instead of keeping that vital information to the latter stages of the interview, when after careful questioning the interviewee should have placed themselves in a position to show inconsistencies, untruths, falsifications and contradictions. At this point you can then ‘probe’ with your questions and gradually introduce evidence.
Taking witness statements can be unnerving for the interviewee and putting them at ease and explaining all facets of the interview is key to winning the trust of the individual. Your witnesses will often know a lot more than they think and there are techniques to draw that information out of them in an unobtrusive means.
Time and preparation are key components when interviewing. By giving sufficient time to deal with the interviewee in detail will save time later and produce a more beneficial result. When clients’ have utilised our investigation services to gather evidence then good time management of the interview will allow sufficient time to deal with introducing that evidence at your pace and at the relevant time.
Consider tape recorded suspect interviews and produce a full transcript. Experience during our commercial investigations continually proves the benefit of taped interviews for all parties, but be aware of the procedures to follow.
We often find with our clients that they have no interview strategy – no structure, order of evidence or a timeline of events. As a former police detective who conducted interviews on a daily basis, it is second nature to me. I have seen commercial criminal cases dismissed by the CPS because of poor interview notes and statements so before interviewing consider PEACE: Preparation, Engage / Explain, Accounts, Conclusion, Evaluate.
Treat your interviews as a vital component of any investigation as the interview can be the mechanism to pull all of the aspects of your investigation together putting you and your organisation in the strongest and most advantageous position.
It’s time to act.