August 25, 2020 | Barb Carr

Investigative Interviewing: Good Technique Makes a Difference

Investigative interviewing is essential to an incident investigation. It’s a primary way for investigators to uncover what contributed to an incident. However, a lot of investigators dive into interviewing without any formal training. They have a list of questions, they ask them . . . end of interview. Typically this method leaves the incident investigator short on answers. However, learning a good investigative interviewing technique will make all the difference.

What does a good investigative interviewing technique look like?

A good investigative interviewing technique is structured. It has repeatable steps that are effective in getting better quality and quantity of information from a witness.

These steps include:

  • building rapport
  • learning what the witness knows about the incident
  • closing the interview effectively
  • post interview tasks

Which steps do interviews typically go wrong?

Interviews typically go wrong during two steps: building rapport and learning what the witness knows about the incident.

Building rapport.

Sometimes investigators skip rapport building all together. Sometimes they don’t spend enough time doing it, or don’t do it in a deliberate way. In the TapRooT® 12-Step Interview Process, there are three rapport building steps because building rapport is that important.

Building rapport is cornerstone to a professional investigative interview. When you don’t build rapport, you are only doing a Q&A session. Q&A sessions are not as effective because you really don’t know the right questions to ask if you weren’t there.

What building rapport does is set the foundation for the entire interview. The witness needs to feel safe enough to share information. Rapport is built and developed consciously by finding common ground, and being empathetic. Learn more about how to build rapport with your witness.

Learning what the witness knows about the incident.

Interviews also seem to go wrong when learning about what the witness knows about the incident. Learning about what the witness knows about the incident sounds a lot like questioning the witness, right? There is a time for questioning, but that’s not really where an investigator discovers what the witness knows. The first question about the incident isn’t really a question at all, but a “tell me.”

“Tell me, from start to finish, what you remember about the incident.”

And then, the hardest part of the interviewer’s job is listening without interrupting. It’s important to structure the interview in such a way that it supports the witness in recalling what he/she saw. That’s why we start with “tell me.” instead of sitting the witness down and firing questions at him or her. Structuring the interview includes building rapport (discussed above), and it also includes cognitive interviewing techniques that help the witness remember and tell you more. Cognitive interviewing techniques are included in the TapRooT® 12-Step Process.

Learn more about evidence collection techniques.

Visit our resources page to learn more about how you can improve your evidence collection skills. We have webinars, a book, a self-guided evidence collection course, and upcoming public courses.

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Interviewing & Evidence Collection
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