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INTERVIEWS

What did you just say?

Think for a moment about the statements you make during an interview with the subject of your investigation.  Too often interviewers make an implicit promise or suggestion of leniency, without actually realising what they’re saying; even the most experienced of you.

There are common statements that we hear often when evaluating interviews for consulting and training purposes. 

Statements from interviewers or investigators saying to the subject:

• “I hope you and I can solve this in the room today.”
• “Hey, if you tell me the truth, we can keep it within these four walls.”
• “Listen, if you don’t talk to me, we might have to talk to an outside agency.”

The problem with phrases like those is they are implicit suggestions of leniency or perceived promises. “Hey, if we can solve this in the room today, essentially, you won’t be getting into trouble.” “Talk to me and not an outside agency” is essentially a threat. What you’re saying is, “Talk to me or we’ll contact the police.”

When you say things like this, you encounter two different problems. One, with a guilty subject, you might be making a promise that you won’t be able to keep. Two, with an innocent subject, you might be providing incentive to confess to something they didn’t do so they could simply get out of the room.  This could happen if they don’t feel like there is any consequence attached to the conversation.

Either one of those outcomes is risky and create liabilities to you and your organisation.  Think about other tactics and try to understand why your subject is resistant and obtain more information versus resorting to some type of promise or suggestion of leniency. 

by Chris Norris, CFI
Wicklander-Zulawski

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