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Interview Techniques

You May Not Be A Successful Interviewer If …

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

You are unacquainted with the case details. Efforts at “winging it” in the interview room or going on a “fishing expedition” very rarely produces positive results.  You should always approach every interview with the “construction of proof” as your objective.  That’s for all interviews – victims, witnesses, suspects, applicants, informants, petitioners, etc.

You approach your subject with an assumption of guilt. No one can be truly objective when they enter the interview room but by assuming guilt, we typically ignore asking the questions or hearing  answers that might challenge and even threaten our pre- conceptions.

You use an “accusatory style” interview. An accusatory style tends to “drive” the interview in only one direction and rarely uncovers new or additional information. It also seldom generates cooperation from victims or witnesses and compliance from subjects.  An accusatory approach is also notorious for generating contaminated statements.

You frequently interrupt your subject. Any interview as well as an interrogation is far from being successful without active, participatory listening by the interviewer. Frequent interruption cuts off the flow of conversation and ultimately information.

You are repetitive in your questioning or labor over the same line of questioning. Persistent questioning from a single narrow perspective tends to frustrate even the cooperative subject – it tends to lock their reasoning and thinking process into one line of thought.  Varying your approach, method of framing a question, and using a more narrative-based approach results in content rich statements and cooperative subjects.

Note: Once the interview starts out bad, it rarely ever improves.

Scarcity – A Tool of Influence

by Stan B. Walters
“The Lie Guy®”

How often have each of us encountered the subject in our interview room who even after being faced with the nearly undeniable facts proving their involvement in the incident we are investigating, appears to be completely unmovable in their determination not to admit to their actions. We often feel that such moments could turn into fruitless “yes you will – no I won’t” situations. We can literally almost see, feel and even hear the admission or confession within our grasp. How can we persuade the subject to take the one last step to acceptance? The answer may be found in a simple tool of human influence – scarcity.

Experts in the field of study known as human influence tell us that for many people the idea of any form of potential loss plays a very large role in human decision making. It can have such an enormous motivating affect on us that we can become so focused on what we may lose that people have been to known to forget about gaining something else of equal or greater value. This basic tool of influence can be easily employed as an effective interview and interrogation tool.

We have all seen ads that pronounce “For a Limited Time Only”, “While Supplies Last”, “For The First Fifty Customers.” Think of how easily this can be translated for our needs as interviewers. After having placed ourselves in the position of authority, perhaps you want to impress on you subject that once the case moves on to the next level there may be little either you or your subject can do to control what happens next. If he or she leaves today without making their statement then all the rumors will start that will certainly not be fair to the subject.

Your subject could be reminded that at this moment they may be able to have some influence on their fate. They could resign now or wait until they are fired and it goes on their record. We want to create in the subject a sense of urgency. That for the subject, the time to act is now before events spiral out of control such that no one can affect the outcome. He or she can be made to feel that few if anyone outside of you as the interviewer could possibly be on the side of the subject, would be willing to listen to their position or to or even not tell others about the subject true feelings or actions.

By using scarcity as a tool of influence we are not offering leniency. We are not promising the subject that there will be no punishment for their actions or behavior. We are certainly going to be cautious that we are not eliciting a false confession. We are only reinforcing the subject’s desire to avoid losing all control of the situation, it’s outcome or future circumstances. What is your subject most early of losing at the risk of giving up what they could possibly gain by continuing to resist facing the truth.