An investigative interview is probably the most stressful interview you can go through – asking the right questions to find out the truth is just a relatively small portion of the whole job. There are many things to consider, and the key is preparation and making sure that everything is in place when the interview happens. Interviews can make or break an investigation; ask the wrong questions and you get the wrong information or the interviewed person may become hostile – ask the right questions, on the other hand, and your investigation is well on its way to its conclusion. Here’s a little checklist to go over; here’s how to properly conduct an investigative interview.

Be objective

The good cop/bad cop routine is really not effective – it’s easy to see through it and it questions your sincerity. Be objective. It’s far better to have an image that does not compromise your objectiveness. Try the following:

  • Take allegations seriously
  • Don’t compromise confidentiality unless it’s unlawful
  • Don’t tell the person you question what other people have said
  • Don’t discuss opinions –stick to the facts as much as possible
  • Avoid making deals

Your composure

The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed the person who is interviewed will be – your composure tends to rub off. Try to put the person at ease; often a simple cup of coffee or tea will ease the tension. Don’t be too informal, however – make sure the person knows that it’s an interview and that their answers will be taken seriously.

Questions to ask

Avoid asking questions that allow the person to answer with a simple yes or no; it’s far better to ask open-ended questions that encourage the person to explain him- or herself – unless, of course, you want to establish some basic facts. Keep your questions simple – avoid compound questions (questions that force the person to answer several things at once).


Make sure you have a good idea of the facts first – questions of motive or other speculative issues can be raised later.

Keeping records

Take detailed notes, or make sure you have the services of a recording device at hand. It will help greatly with the review and you’re sure you won’t miss details or make mistakes. And once the interview is done, have the recording transcribed by legal transcription professionals. With proper legal transcription services, you can easily go over the interview later on.

If there is one golden rule in investigative interviews, it’s that you should always make sure the person who is interviewed is as relaxed as possible to avoid hostility. This is accomplished by remaining objective (you’re not personally affected) and to remain calm at all times (even if you disagree with any or all statements). Summarise and follow up. Be clear and calm. And be patient – you’ll get there.