Initial Interview and
Communication skills, especially during interviews with a prospective or existing client, witness,
suspect, or other party, are a core competency for the investigator. How to ask questions and gain
information should not be assumed to be an easy skill to master. In fact, it is safe to say that the art
of investigation and questioning takes years to perfect. Interviews are but one of those stages where
the questions mean a great deal. An interview can encompass many purposes, including an initial
visitation with a prospective client, an ongoing dialogue with a long-term client, an observational
review and analysis of a witness or suspect statement, an interrogation of a suspected wrongdoer, a
character assessment by a suspect’s neighbor, or a background information check. In any of these
scenarios, the private investigator must gauge his or her time and energy wisely. Knowing the dif-
ference between idle chitchat and productive discussion is essential.
At a minimum, an interview is a conversation designed to garner facts and clarify issues. Viewed
positively, the interview is human interaction between the interviewer and the respondent. “Properly
handled, an interview is an accurate communication of information; improperly handled, it can
become a serious source of bias restricting or distorting the communication ow.”
Whatever the circumstances and conditions surrounding the interview process, certain practices
1. Select a time and a place that is mutually convenient.
2. Prepare in advance for an interview.
3. Begin the interview on a cooperative and pleasant note.
4. Establish rapport with the respondent or interviewee.
Without preparation, the interview will be a awed exercise from the outset. Knowing what to
ask, how the issues course through the selected questions, and being able to conduct a meaningful
post-assessment of the interview are just a few parts of the interview protocol. “The issues to be
discussed and the questions to be asked must be clear before the interview. In complicated discus-
sions, the investigator may decide to list objectives and questions in advance, but the list should not
be used during the actual interview.”
On a practical note, information is more easily acquired when the investigator acts professionally
and treats the respondent with the courtesy and dignity that all people expect and to which they are
entitled. See Figure 3.1 for an example of the importance of these traits in an actual company.
II. INITIAL INTERVIEW
Many times, the rst step in a investigation is the interview of either a client, suspect, victim, wit-
ness, plaintiff, or defendant. At the initial interview, the security ofcer’s interactive talents are
put to the test. At this stage, the investigator sets the tone for the upcoming investigative process.
Success in the initial interview depends on the following principles: