Interviewing those involved in various types of incidents can be a major part of a typical day of a private investigator. It is recognised as one of their most vital tasks.
Being able to interview someone well means that it generates the greatest amount of information in the least possible time, causes no aggravation to those being interviewed and helps resolve a case rapidly and efficiently.
Here are a few hints and tips for any new or aspiring private investigator to help progress their interviewing expertise:
It is imperative to plan for interviews ahead of time. Do not expect an interviewee to change their plans to suit yours simply because you failed to prepare properly. Of course, there will be times when vital meetings are unavoidable, in which case, say so and arrange an appointment to suit the interviewee.
Make a list of questions you will ask before the interview begins. Try to adhere to this but be aware that unforeseen questions may crop up during the interview.
It is wise to have your questions printed out on piece of paper and have them before you, with plenty of space between each item for notes. Should an unexpected question occur then a different coloured pen can be used to record the new question and the answer given by the person being interviewed.
If at all possible try and arrange the interviews for early in the day, the reason for this is that those involved will be fresher and also they will not be settled into a daily routine that they will find hard to break.
Do not keep the other party waiting so make sure you arrive with plenty of time to spare. It is a sure thing that nothing annoys a person more than being taken for granted. It also creates a bad first impression, which can make your subject keep back information or be less cooperative than they otherwise might.
Dress yourself suitably to show that the meeting mattered. It does and this something that is not always clear if you turn up with trendy dirty jeans and a tatty tee shirt covered in stains from a recent hurried snack.
Introduce yourself as soon as you get there and when you meet those others involved. A friendly greeting and a handshake go a long way towards establishing credibility and reducing the discomfort of official interviews.
Look your subject in the eye, and try not to look untrustworthy or try to gather background information whilst the other person is talking. Always give them your full consideration.
Explain the rationale for the interview. Do not keep your interviewee guessing as to what is exactly going on. They will undoubtedly want to know why you are asking them questions, why you require the information, and how you mean to use it.
Create a bond as soon as you can, no matter whom you are talking to or what position they hold. Holier than thou is not a good approach to have if you want people to open and warm towards you. Be friendly but not overly friendly. Stay professional.
Permit the other person time to answer your query and try not to do much talking yourself. Ask open questions which give the subject a chance to expand, rather than closed questions, which can simply be answered yes or no. Allow them to finish before asking a different question. Do not interrupt or cut them short.
Best to avoid distractions. Not everyone likes recording equipment or obvious note taking. Make a request before doing either. Many people will decline the chance to be recorded but will expect you to take notes. Keep notes as brief as possible and try not to spend too long looking away from the other person.
Do not try to impress or coerce your subject. This will simply create a feeling of us and them, which will make them feel threatened or undermined. Regardless, you are less likely to get the information you need. The best approach is natural and simple.
Suggest a follow up interview if you run out of time but remember you are encroaching on their precious time. Arrange a follow up that suits the other person best, not you.
Leave affably. Shake hands and thank your interviewee for their time and effort. If necessary, say you will get back to him. Give them your card, and suggest they contact you if you can be of any help to them in the future.
When the interview ends, write up your notes as soon as possible. It is remarkable how quickly rough notes get lost, or you simply forget what you meant. If the matter ends up in court, such a lack of professionalism can be awkward and costly.