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Allow interviewees to set the pace of the interview by encouraging them to tell the story of what happened during the incident instead of waiting for you to ask a “yes” or “no” answer.

Investigative interviewing is challenging because most investigators have learned how to do it on the job and do not have formal training. However, it is a very important component of evidence collection so it’s essential to know what practices to avoid.  Here are the top three worst practices in root cause analysis interviewing.

1. Not using a variety of open-ended questions. Asking too many closed-ended questions (questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”) will get you just that — a “yes” or “no.” Not only that, but closed-ended questions tend to be leading. Open-ended questions will help the interviewee retrieve from memory and maybe even provide information you did not know to ask. That’s not to say you should never use closed-ended questions.  Use your closed ended questions judiciously to verify something the interviewee has said or to tie up loose ends after the interviewee finishes his or her narrative.

2. Not treating the interviewee with respect. When you seem uninterested in what the interviewee has to say, (i.e., you look at your phone/computer, take non-essential calls and allow other people to interrupt, sigh/show you are impatient/bored with your body language), he or she will try to make answers as brief as possible.  Interviewees will follow your lead but you really want them to set the pace – allowing them space to retrieve from memory and tell their stories as they remember them.  Set aside a time you will not be interrupted and break the ice at the beginning of the interview with a friendly tone and body language.

3. Interrupting the Interviewee.  This goes along with #2 above but it also deserves it’s own spot because it is so important.  Even if you don’t do anything else right in the interview, don’t interrupt the interviewee while he or she is telling the story from memory. It will cause them to lose a train of thought and cause you to lose valuable information to get to the root cause.  You’ll also give out a “I already know what happened” attitude.  You don’t know the root cause until the investigation is complete, (and I hope you are nodding your head affirmatively).

What can you share about good interviewing practices?  Please leave your comments below.