Introduction to Workplace Investigation Interviewing Techniques
Part VI — Do Not Forget Your Closing Questions
By Matt Rose
An effective interview will draw out a plethora of information in a limited amount of time. Even the best interviewer, however, sometimes neglects to ask key questions. To make sure you have given the interviewee every reasonable opportunity to share crucial information, give them another opportunity to do so at the very end of an interview. An effective way to do this is to wind down the interview by asking the witness for names of other potential witnesses and for a list of documents that may shed light on the investigation. Also, ask the witness to share anything else they would like about the investigation prior to concluding. Make it part of your interview routine to ask these questions at the end of every single interview:
- Witnesses? Before finalizing the interview, ask the interviewee for names of people that could shed light on the investigation. Make sure the interviewee understands that anyone, no matter how directly or indirectly related to the investigation, could serve as a helpful witness. Encourage the interviewee to provide you with more names by asking them, “Who else might have information about this complaint?” Similarly, ask a witness, “Who else would be able to answer the same kinds of questions that I have asked you about today?”
- Documents? Towards the end of the interview, ask the interviewee for a list of documents that might provide insight into the investigation. Reassure the interviewee that any documentation, even the seemingly innocuous kind, could be useful in the investigation. For example, ask the interviewee for emails, letters, text messages, drawings, pictures, or anything of that nature. Also, make sure to ask the interviewee about documentation in an open-ended manner, such as, “Can you think of any kind of documentation that I might want to look at?”
- Anything Else? Before wrapping up, give the interviewee last opportunities to share their thoughts about the investigative manner. Ask three questions at the end in an open-ended manner so the interviewee feels free to answer the question in any way they want. Consider: “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” “Is there anything else I should have asked?” “Is there anything else you think would be helpful for me to know?” We have found that it is helpful to ask this question at least three times in different ways. It elicits different responses.
As illustrated above, the end of your interview can provide just as much helpful information as the rest of the interview.
By integrating the interviewing techniques from our six-part blog series into your interviewing routine, not only will you feel prepared, but you will be able to obtain the type of information needed to ensure a fair, thorough and neutral investigation. Be sure to read the other articles in this series:
- Part I — Physical Setting: The Importance of “Setting the Scene”
- Part II — First Impressions Matter
- Part III — Admonitions: Getting It All Out There in the Most Effective Way
- Part IV — The Most Effective Question Types
- Part V — Admonitions: Getting It All Out There in the Most Effective Way
- Part VI — Do Not Forget Your Closing Questions
Matt Rose is an Associate Attorney with Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation. His practice focuses on conducting workplace and Title IX campus investigations.
The foregoing is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor should be construed as such.