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Interviews

Top 10 Employee Interview Dos and Don’ts

By David E. Zulawski, CFI, CFE 
and Christopher P. Norris

Over the last few years of teaching non-confrontational interview techniques to investigations professionals in the U.K. and Europe, we have observed some consistent dos and don’ts during the employee interview process. What follows is a suggested best practice list. 

Top 10 Don’ts

10 —

 
Don’t go into a “cold interview” if at all feasible. There is no substitute for a thorough investigation. Exhaust all potential investigative avenues to gather reliable information which could assist in proper disciplinary process following the interview.

9 —

 
Don’t interview an employee without consent or justification. It is often useful to partner with others in the organisation since they can look at the case as any outside third party would.

8 —

 
Don’t defame an employee’s character with false verbal comments (slander) or written/printed information (libel). All information that is included in investigative reports or communicated to decision makers should be based on factual investigative findings and provided in an unbiased manner. 

7 —

 
Don’t create liability for your organisation by attempting to prosecute every employee regardless of the evidence. It may also be prudent to present the evidence, and employee profile, to the Crown, allowing them to make the determination of whether to bring charges, mitigating adverse publicity in the press. 

6 —

 
Don’t touch the subject during the interview process. Other than shaking hands before and after the interview, any physical contact with the employee should be avoided. 

5 —

 
Don’t leave the employee’s written statement or important evidence unattended. These critical pieces of the investigation should be protected and never left alone with the employee no matter how cooperative he or she appears to be.

4 —

 

Don’t start your interview without a coaching session with your witness and note taker. Let your witness know specifically what you will expect from them during the interview process. 

3 —

 


Don’t ever use coercive tactics in order to obtain information from an employee. Actions such as shouting, screaming, making threats, or promises of leniency should not be used. Consider the length of the interview and the circumstances surrounding the encounter. Remember that the interview is really just a business meeting relating to policy violations and should be conducted in a professional business manner.

2 —

 
Don’t have a closed mind about an individual’s involvement in circumstantial cases. Keep in mind, circumstantial evidence is exactly that—circumstantial. If there is no direct evidence of an employee’s involvement or knowledge, a non-accusatory interview should generally take place. 

1 —

 

Don’t begin an interview with an employee without first going through the proper channels that have been established by your organisation. Work through your case one last time with your supervisor. This will not only help prepare you for the interview, but it may also point out short comings in the investigation. 

Top 10 Dos

10 —

 
Do spend quality time during your preparation and pre-planning stages to ensure the location, timing, and environment for the conversation is adequate. Select a location that provides convenience and privacy whilst allowing enough time for the conversation with the employee. 

9 —

 

Do anticipate responses to problems during the interview to help avoid conflict during the conversation. Anticipate what type of denials the subject is going to offer based on their background and the case facts. 

8 —

 
Do spend time to develop the subject’s behavioural norm prior to any interview. Recognising their behavioural norm will allow the interviewer to make better judgments when attempting to determine the individual’s truth or deception.

7 —

 
Do make sure your case file is complete with all the necessary documents and evidence. Include any required forms and writing instruments before initiating the interview. Be thorough in order to not have to excuse yourself for something you should have brought into the room to begin with.

6 —

 
Do back out of the interview when necessary. Make good decisions when you recognise that the conversation is not going in the direction you anticipated. Always err on the side of caution by making good business decisions instead of emotional ones.

5 —

 

Do treat the individual with the same consideration and respect that you would like to have if the situation were reversed. This is the sign of a true professional.

4 —

 
Do take a thorough documented statement at the conclusion of each interview that warrants one. The dishonest employee’s statement needs to include intent, elements of the crime or policy violation, be thoroughly substantiated and address the voluntariness of the statement among other things. 

3 —

 

Do begin each interview with a plan of what you are going to say and the order in which you are going to say it. Anticipate problems and plan for alternative strategies should they be needed. 

2 —

 

Do continue to learn and understand the different approaches to conducting an employee interview. There are resources, such as books, articles, and classes, to help expand your knowledge of the field. Remember to use only those techniques and strategies permitted by the guidelines of your organisation. 

1 —

 
Do practice, practice, practice.

For further information on Wicklander-Zulawski courses in the U.K. and Europe, contact Sue Duncan at sue.duncan@wz-uk.com.  

Do continue to learn and understand the different approaches to conducting 
an employee interview. 
There are resources, 
such as books, articles, 
and classes, to help expand your knowledge of the 
field. Remember to use only those techniques and strategies permitted by the guidelines of your organisation.

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