Conducting an interview is not as simple as just asking a bunch of questions. Your interview needs structure, purpose and direction. You need to draw on evidence, clarify facts and elicit enough information to arrive at an informed opinon. To do this, you need to understand the basic framework for an investigation interview.
When conducting an investigation, you must interview all persons who you reasonably consider to have any connection with, or information about, the matter under investigation. There are primarily two types of interviews, the witness/complainant and the subject/respondent. Essentially the framework for both types of interviews is identical. The only significant difference is that a respondent, although required to provide information about their duties and job, is not required to provide any information that may incriminate them.
Interviewees may be confused, anxious or behave irrationally at times. You must remain calm, professional and polite. An explanation of the process, roles and responsibilities will remove any ambiguity about the interview process and provide direction and confidence to the interviewee about the process.
The interview must not be perceived as being unfair, deceptive or intimidating in any way. The formal questioning must be aimed at addressing the elements surrounding the facts of the issue. Do not use ambiguous or trick questions. Most importantly do not assume anything, especially guilt. Your task as the investigator is to consider the facts in an impartial and professional manner.
Before commencing the interview make sure you have all the required evidence, documents, diagrams, reports etc that you wish to discuss with the interviewee. Review your investigation plan to ensure you are across the issues to be raised at interview. Prepare the interview room. Make sure there is water, glasses, tissues if necessary and that your recording equipment is primed and ready.
Best practice is to record all interviews. This provides both you and the interviewee protection in that there is a true account of what is discussed. Additionally when compiling the report, direct quotes can be included as opposed to your interpretation of what is said. Recordings should never be conducted covertly as there is legislation against this type of activity.
When conducting formal interviews it is a best practice to use a template that ensures you have provided all the required information about the interview. This preamble template should be read into the record in order to satisfy procedural fairness. Information that should be included in this template include the names of all parties involved in the interview, date, time, place, details of the allegation, the decision making process and the expectation of involvement by the interviewee.
Next, ask interviewees to check and confirm their authorship of any previously completed reports related to the allegations.
When conducting the interview use open and non leading questions and allow the interviewee to talk without interruption. This enables you to obtain as much information as possible, not about you. Be aware of using negative questions and questions that have multiple answers or parts to them. You are just making it difficult for the interviewee to cooperate.
A good rule of thumb when interviewing is the ADVOCATE method. By directing open, non threatening questions around this methodology should provide you a significant amount of detail around the incident/allegation.
A mount of time under observation
D istance from subject
K nown or seen before
A ny reason to notice
T ime since observation
E rrors and discrepancies
Information gathering can also be more effective by using techniques other than just questioning. The use of re-enactments, walk throughs and sketches can provide more descriptive information than talking alone. Remember to have the interviewee adopt this evidence by signing any documentation created.
When concluding an interview always ask if the version of events provided is true and accurate and provide the interviewee the opportunity to make any complaints about the interview process.
Generally, if you have conducted the interview by adhering to procedural fairness and in a professional and transparent manner, there will be no complaints. However, if complaints are received well after the interview, which can happen with adverse findings, this recorded part of the interview can be used to evidence the appropriateness of the interview.