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Selecting Locations to Conduct Interviews in Compliance Investigations

Interviews are used to obtain leads, develop known information, and establish evidence from witnesses as well as admissions from wrongdoers. Interviewees are typically employees or others involved in the workplace. As such, an interviewer will require planning and forethought as to how to conduct interviews with these respective persons. The location of the interview is only one small, but important, part of the equation. The physical conditions under which an interview is conducted can greatly affect the results of an interview and, as a result, can affect the investigation as a whole.  Taking the time to find the right location to conduct an interview is a very important part of the planning process. The compliance officer conducting the interview should make arrangements for suitable surroundings that will facilitate the interview process. The setting should be non-threatening and not too confined. All interviews should be in-person and in a private location where others cannot overhear the discussion. Every effort should be made to avoid any environment that might distract from the interview process. It is generally preferable that interviews not take place in an office. However, the compliance officer’s office is an exception if it is away from foot traffic, observers, or other distracting factors. It is very important to have the interview away from the familiar surroundings of the person being interviewed. A person being interviewed in his or her own office or home is given a comfort level and sense of importance that will detract from and limit the results of the interview.

Kashish Chopra, JD has conducted a number of such interviews and advises that: “Interviews should be conducted individually, not in any collective setting.  Having more than one witness interviewed together or in the same location will allow one witness to hear what the other is saying and will distort the entire process. One witness may sway or influence others, consciously or unconsciously. Interviews may be one-on-one; however, for sensitive interviews, there should be two people conducting the interview to ensure that the manner, circumstance, and content of the interview are supported by a witness.”

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Other considerations in choosing an interview location should include safety, control, and the ability to avoid interfering with the work of others. When a location to conduct the interview has been decided, there are additional logistics and considerations to be mindful of. Avoid placing any barrier between yourself and the person being interviewed (e.g., desk). Don’t encroach on the personal space of an interviewee (3-4 feet). Additionally, if there are two interviewers present in the room, the second interviewer on the team should be sitting away or behind the interviewee in order to avoid distraction.

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