Interviewing Skills

Traditionally, the “art” of interviewing (and it is an art as much as a science) has been seen as the province of law enforcement and military officers. Ironically, the rest of society outside of law enforcement, also has a great need to properly interview people in ways that maximize effectiveness. Imagine how it feels to know if someone is lying to you. Put yourself in the role of: 1) Parent o Talking with your children o Talking with your children’s friends (and their parents) 2) School counselor o Talking with students o Talking with parents 3) Employer o Talking with employees o Talking with subordinates o Interviewing candidates o Talking with suppliers 4) Human Resources Officer o Investigating a complaint o Conducting a hiring interview o Administering corrective actions o Participating in promotional interviews o Conducting an exit interview 5) Spouse o Talking with your “significant other” o Talking with in-laws 6) Physician o Interviewing patients o Talking with patients’ families o Conversing with other doctors o Talking with your staff 7) Attorney o Talking with your clients o Interviewing witnesses o Depositions o Cross-examinations o Negotiating with other attorneys 8) Investigative reporter o Interviewing witnesses to events o Interviewing victims o Interviewing people who are hiding information o “Catching” people lying to you And the list goes on, and on, and on… Why isn’t this training given to everyone? In virtually every modern school, agency or business, much care and consideration is given to the allocation of training, especially that training which requires both the expenditure of time and money. In almost every situation, different segments of the agency (school, business or organization)have had to compete in a sense for their share of the almighty training dollar budget. Training is generally expensive and takes people away from their primary jobs. Think about it: when you are gone on a training day, not only does your employer bear the costs associated with the training itself, but must also: 1) Get you there (transportation) 2) Pay you to stay there (hotels) 3) Pay your meals while you are training 4) Pay for your return trip 5) Lose your work value while you are away at training. Not only that, but your employer also loses your salary for the time you are away attending training! As a result, it is incumbent upon agency administrators to prioritize the available training money and to select suitable training to maximize effectiveness. Administrators don’t want to send everyone to training, so they end up sending only those individuals who seem to “need” it the most. Typically, people who investigate situations tend to be the only ones who receive investigative interview training, when an objective analysis of virtually every supervisory job description would indicate that this would be a great topic for every supervisor. Consider the absolute certainty that we will have to interact with people during each and every workday. Shouldn’t we know how to talk with people, to gather useful information from them and to evaluate the accuracy (and truthfulness) of that information? What we need are interviewing methods which are not based totally on theory, but rather upon practical application. These techniques should be successfully used, very easy to learn and do not require reference texts to be carried in the field. When learning to interview people we need to look at what is wrong (or at least ineffective) with typical interview techniques, what in the past has led us to use techniques that don’t work, what does work and how to develop techniques that will dramatically increase our success rates in dealing with people and will be of great value in clarifying statements obtained from victims and witnesses. The Focused Interviewing system was originally developed for law enforcement personnel to use in their daily investigation of crime. Indeed, thousands of officers have been trained in Focused Interviewing and it works very well in the law enforcement setting. A number of years ago, I realized that many others needed to know how to interview people in a systematic way which achieved the same desired goal: getting to the truth. Look for a system which is very intuitive, easy to use and doesn’t require any memorization of “steps” or mandatory sequences. Therefore, more adaptable to the non-law enforcement world than are the more structured, rigid interviewing systems. Additionally, look for a system which allows you to interview someone with whom you have a continuing relationship, because you should learn to interview in a calm,like-able, non-threatening manner. Although there are some obvious differences between law enforcement interviews and non-law enforcement interviews, these differences lie chiefly in the subject matter. The techniques, goals and methods are remarkably similar, whether you are an employer interviewing an employee or a homicide cop interviewing a suspect.
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5 Responses to “Interviewing Skills”

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