Blog Post

26 Tips for Interviewing Witnesses in a Compliance Investigation

Richard P. Kusserow | December 2023

An interview involves questioning someone who may possess information relevant to the matter under investigation. Properly preparing for an interview maximizes the effectiveness of witness participation and interviewer efficiency. Conducting successful compliance investigation interviews is a matter of following best practices. It begins with properly preparing and reviewing available relevant information. Many interviews fail due to a lack of quality preparation. Once ready to begin an interview, consider the following tips:

  1. Identify self and any others participating in the interview
  2. Explain the purpose of the investigation
  3. Project a professional image in appearance and demeanor
  4. Tell them your authority to conduct an inquiry
  5. Inform them why they are being interviewed
  6. Remind employees that it is their duty to provide complete and accurate facts
  7. Explain you are seeking cooperation and the interview is voluntary
  8. Establish rapport by being open, friendly, and easy-going
  9. Ask if they have any questions before the interview begins
  10. Start with easy questions to allow the person to settle into the interview
  11. Remind them they should be candid and not fear retaliation
  12. Treat those interviewed with dignity, respect, and courtesy
  13. Make no threats and engage in no intimidation
  14. Keep control of the interview by asking, not answering questions
  15. Keep the questions simple and direct, avoiding compound sentences
  16. Avoid the use of any investigative jargon
  17. Note their comments will be kept confidential to the degree possible
  18. Request they keep the interview confidential (“street runs both ways”)
  19. Offer no opinions relating to the investigation
  20. Ask open-ended questions and allow the witness to tell their story in their own way
  21. Don’t ask their opinion or conclusion on the case
  22. Take notes throughout the interview
  23. Restate important questions in different ways to ensure correct answer
  24. Ask if they know of others that might be able to add useful information
  25. Tell them you may be re-interviewed to clarify points
  26. Ask them to contact you if they can think of anything not covered

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About the Author

Richard P. Kusserow established Strategic Management Services, LLC, after retiring from being the DHHS Inspector General, and has assisted over 2,000 health care organizations and entities in developing, implementing and assessing compliance programs.

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