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Investigation Interviews: Location and Setting

Tips for Conducting Successful Interviews

Whether debriefing a complainant, interviewing a witness, or confronting a subject in an interrogation, proper preparation is critical. A key element in the planning is determining where it will take place. Determining the location and setting of the interview is important. The objective includes ensuring privacy and eliminating possible interruptions.  If possible, it should take place away from any traffic or other distracting influences, or where others may observe what is occurring. Preferably, it should be conducted away from the person’s normal area of business. Interviewing someone in his or her own office should be avoided due to potential interruptions or the possibility that the person may turn his or her attention to other matters.  It also gives interviewees the advantage of being on their “own turf” and can change the dynamic of the interview. For similar reasons, serious consideration should be given before interviewing interviewees in their own home. Interviewing them away from their own area gives the investigator an advantage. The following are other tips and considerations in deciding upon the interview location and setting:

  1. Privacy: The fewer people in the room, the better the results.
  2. Quiet: Avoid external sounds or allowing outsiders to hear.
  3. Room Size: Small enough to convey intimacy.
  4. Well Lighted: Permits closer observation of individuals.
  5. Plain: Avoid distractions (e.g., window, pictures, etc.).
  6. Telephone: Shut if off to avoid incoming calls.
  7. Furniture: Avoid having furniture in between (can be a barrier to rapport).
  8. Chairs: The interviewer should sit directly across from the interviewee.
  9. Positioning: Avoid having the person being interviewed able to look out a window and not at the interviewer.

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There are practical considerations that may necessitate compromise on some of these tips. Also, it is reasonable to consider the fact that most interviews will be with witnesses or individuals who provide a limited amount of information. As such, many of these tips may not be necessary. In other cases, the interviewee may be the accused wrongdoer and, as such, applying these techniques and considerations take on greater importance.

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