Conducting Investigative Interviews
Conducting Investigative Interviews

While a lot of the work of private investigators is in surveillance and research (in person and online), some tasks will also require interviews. It may be interviewing a person to take a statement, speaking to potential witnesses of a crime or incident (when recruited to help a solicitor), or just asking around to find the location of someone.

Whatever the situation, private investigators need to approach interviews in a certain way. Otherwise, they risk acting in an intimidating manner, misleading someone, and ultimately not getting the information they need.

This article isn’t intended to teach you everything you need to know to carry out your own interviews. That’s something that requires a lot of training and experience. But here’s a little insight into some of the techniques and methods used by our team when we are required to interview someone.

Preparation: Setting the Stage for Success

Just as a well-constructed foundation supports a sturdy building, thorough preparation sets the stage for effective interviews. Prior to engaging with any interviewee, a private investigator delves into background research to make sure they know everything they can about the case and the person they’re going to be speaking to.

This not only ensures that pertinent questions are asked, but also shows respect for the interviewee’s time and circumstances. By possessing a basic understanding of the situation, the investigator can frame questions intelligently and create a more productive conversation.

Imagine if someone turned up to ask you questions about something but hadn’t bothered to check even your basic info – you’d be pretty offended while they asked all the mundane stuff, wouldn’t you?

Approaching Without Bias: The Blank Slate Approach

One of the investigator’s primary objectives is to establish an environment of trust and openness. Approaching interviews without preconceived notions or judgments is therefore absolutely paramount.

This “blank slate” approach encourages interviewees to share information candidly, knowing that their responses are being collected impartially. By embracing neutrality, we increase the likelihood of gaining authentic insights.

If we go into an interview assuming guilt or thinking we know the full tale, we might also miss something that we would otherwise have asked about.

Scheduled vs. Off-The-Cuff: Adapting to Circumstances

While some interviews are meticulously planned and scheduled, others occur spontaneously. Private investigators possess the adaptability to navigate both scenarios. Scheduled interviews permit a more structured conversation, while impromptu interactions demand quick thinking and a refined ability to build rapport swiftly. This flexibility allows us to maximize opportunities for gathering crucial information.

There’s also advantages to planning the interviews in both ways. With a scheduled interview you can put someone at ease, but if you know you’re interviewing someone that could be hiding information, catching them off-guard gives them less time to rehearse their own answers.

It’s a delicate balancing act.

Building Rapport: The Bridge to Open Dialogue

Rapport-building is an art that we’ve mastered. Establishing a genuine connection with interviewees fosters a comfortable atmosphere where information flows freely.

Through active listening, empathetic responses, and shared experiences, we create a bridge that encourages individuals to confide in us. This connection is often the catalyst for uncovering details that might otherwise remain hidden.

Even if you’re speaking to someone who you know doesn’t want to speak to you, it’s worth trying to build some kind of rapport based on common ground. It’ll give you that slightly higher chance that they’re willing to open up, even a little.

Importance of Confidentiality: Safeguarding Trust

In the realm of private investigation, confidentiality is exceptionally important.

We assure interviewees that their information will be handled discreetly, protecting their privacy and well-being. This pledge is a cornerstone of our ethical practice, ensuring that interviewees are more inclined to share sensitive or potentially damaging information without fear of repercussions.

We deal with really sensitive subjects – it’s so important that people can trust us.

Multitasking – Listening & Documenting: Juggling Act of Information

During interviews, a private investigator dons multiple hats, expertly juggling the roles of attentive listener and diligent documenter.

As the interviewee speaks, we not only absorb their words but also capture key details, expressions, and emotions. But we have to make sure that we’re capturing everything – both through the legal documentation of the conversation, and picking up on any nuances that could lead the conversation down a valuable aisle.

This meticulous recording ensures that nothing vital is missed, while also providing an accurate record for future reference.

Exploring Further Avenues: Navigating Unforeseen Paths

Sometimes, interviews unveil unexpected avenues that demand exploration. Skilled investigators possess the ability to pivot seamlessly, pursuing leads that emerge organically. You never know how a conversation is going to unfold – sticking to a pre-determined scripted list of questions will only get you so far.

These detours can lead to crucial breakthroughs, enabling us to piece together complex puzzles more effectively. So it’s vital that we can jump between lines of inquiry if needed.

Setting Expectations for Follow-Ups: Building Lasting Relationships

In certain cases, a single interview may not suffice. So it can be just as important to make sure that an interview ends on a positive note, or at the very least that expectations are set that there might be some follow up questions needed.

If you don’t manage those expectations, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away and then realise you’ve forgotten something, only to get a cold reception when you try to go back to ask more. People value their time, and they don’t want to be constantly pestered.

That’s why it’s a really key skill for us to continue to manage relationships. Even if it’s just a witness to a crime, or someone that we’re serving papers too – the more professional and courteous we can be, the higher chance that we can rely on that person later. Again, this is all just to provide a slight insight into the work that private investigators do. And if you want to know more about the services that we offer – maybe you need us to interview someone – then get in touch on 01772 334700.