Should You Record Internal Interviews?

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By Joe Murphy, JD, CCEP, CCEP-I
Compliance Strategists

Should internal investigation interviews be recorded?  I had not thought much about this for years, and during my time doing internal investigations and audits never did a recording of one.  But recent articles in the Compliance and Ethics Professional magazine by Daniel Coney raised some interesting points.

Points to consider:

  • Today almost everyone carriers a recorder with them in their smartphones.  A juror or other decision maker thus might expect this to be the best way to make a record.
  • Public trust in investigators now is much less than before, so our version of an interview may be less likely to be believed.
  • The author reports practically no resistance or problems doing recordings of interviews.
  • Recording removes any arguments about undue influence in an interview, or that the person conducting the interview mischaracterized what the interviewee said.
  • Excellent recorded interviews can be useful training tools.
  • Poorly done interviews can lead to corrective action to improve the interviewer’s techniques.

What do you think?  Do you record interviews?  Or do you think it is a bad idea?

Cheers,

Joe

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Good Morning Joe – You raise some interesting points. To me, the crux of the argument seems to center on why they are being recorded. Are they being reviewed to improve your interviewing skills, for example, or are they being used as source documents to verify facts in a report? Do you have a preference?

    Very respectfully,

    JRN

  2. As a society, we are much more accustomed to recording so many aspects of our lives. In an investigation, it would also seem logical that recording an interview would preserve the integrity of the interview and process. However, my only reluctance in recording interviews is the impact it would have on the interaction and rapport building between the interviewer and interviewee. In a formal setting, such as an interview, people become self conscious about being recorded which would limit the interaction and free flow of information.

    • John – you raise a great point with your first sentence. Most everything today in society is being recorded freely as people want to share it. It is possible to think that people think recording interviews are not a big deal?

      Very Respectfully,

      JRN

  3. Joe, I am curious as to whether you envision recording the interview after notifying the interviewee that you are recording. Or, is it surreptitious?
    State laws will obviously play a role in whether you can safely record without the other party’s knowledge.

    Part of being an effective compliance professional is building trust and rapport. I agree with John Johnson that pulling out a device and asking whether you may record the proceeding will affect some people’s willingness to speak freely. This is especially true if you are interviewing someone who you have worked with for years and never had to have a conversation with a recorder. You will also have some people who will tell you they do not consent to recording and ask you to turn it off.

    One way I have combatted the issues you raise about reliability is to have someone else with me who independently takes their own notes. I do not do this for every investigation, but it is a tool I will use from time to time.

  4. Hi Joe: Thanks for the post. Interesting point. We also use the witness technique instead of recording.

  5. Hi Joe,
    One question for consideration: Whether the other parties are aware the session is being recorded. Over my career, I’ve known of three individuals who recorded every meeting they attended without advising other parties that the meeting was being recorded.

  6. Hi, Everyone – Interesting perspectives and comments. First, the question assumes you are advising the witness first; recording would not be done surreptiously. I recommend reading the series of articles in Compliance and Ethics Professional. One point that caught my attention and surprised me a bit is that the author says he has been doing this for quite some time, and does not have people object or refuse. He also reports that recording seems not to affect people’s openness in answering questions. So maybe it is a new age.

    When I did interviews I also had a second person with me as a witness, and I would certainly recommend that approach.

    Thanks for your comments. Cheers, Joe

  7. So happy to see that my articles have created the discussion I was hoping it would. Thanks for the commentary. The kinds of interviews we are talking about are never recorded without the interviewee’s knowledge. And yes – literally hundreds of these interviews over the course of the last 10 years and I’m aware of only one rather obstructive attorney who had a problem with it. I encourage you to read the 2-part series and if you have feedback I’d love to hear it.

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