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Characteristics of an Effective Interview

An interview is a structured question-and-answer session designed to both gather information and elicit certain verbal and nonverbal cues useful in determining the veracity of the subject. Good interviews share four common characteristics. First, the interview should be of sufficient length and depth to uncover relevant facts. Most interviewers tend to obtain too little, rather than too much, information. Second, the interview should solicit only information relevant to the matter under review. Extraneous or irrelevant facts tend to unnecessarily complicate the matter under review and waste the time of both the interviewer and the subject. Third, the interview should be conducted as closely as possible to the matter under review. Over time, memories fade and critical details can be lost or legitimately forgotten. Fourth, interviews should be objective in scope and aimed at gathering information in a fair and impartial manner. The objective should be to find out the truth, rather than prove that someone is guilty of a defalcation.

Characteristics of an Effective Interviewer

Effective interviewers share numerous characteristics. They tend to be talented in interpersonal relations and are “easy to talk to.” Consequently, those being interviewed are more willing to volunteer information. Effective interviewers take an interest in, and are sensitive to, the person being interviewed. While the subject is responding to a question, they listen to understand what is being said as opposed to listening to respond to what is being said. If interviewers are listening to respond, they are thinking about what the next question will be or what their response will be and, hence, cannot effectively absorb and understand the information being provided by the subject. They should be able to identify and evaluate the verbal and nonverbal cues of deception in order to determine the reliability of the information being provided by the subject. Effective interviewers should approach the interview in an informal, low-key manner and phrase questions in a non-accusatory manner. They should be friendly and professional, but not familiar or social. They should be impartial and open to the possibility that the discrepancy is the result of a “bookkeeping error” rather than an employee defalcation.

Interviewing as a ‘Forensic-Type’ Procedure

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