Wendy Evans on Investigative Interviewing [Podcast]

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By Adam Turteltaub

Effective investigative interviews are both important and sensitive. To get some pointers about how to conduct them properly, we turn in this podcast to Wendy Evans, Senior Corporate Ethics Investigator at Lockheed Martin. Wendy is also an instructor for the SCCE Fundamentals of Compliance Investigations workshops.

She recommends starting by doing your homework. Before you talk with anyone, whether a possible witness or the subject, get all the information you can from the reporter. Then, review it to see if it includes the what, where, when, why and who. If you don’t have all that information, take the time to find it since it can identify what the potential motivation behind the incident was.

With that information in hand, check your case management system to see if any of the parties were involved in previous reports. Follow that by notifying HR and the subject’s manager that you will be conducting an interview. They may have important insight.

Think through what other evidence you may need for the investigation, including expense and audit reports.

If you are going to conduct the interview remotely, she offers four pieces of advice:

  1. Be sure to schedule it appropriately. Sending a meeting request on a Friday for a Monday meeting can create an entire weekend of unnecessary stress for the individual.
  2. Mark the meeting request as private so you, and they, don’t have to worry about others seeing it.
  3. Ensure that the person has video and a private place to talk.
  4. Always include your phone number in case a technology glitch gets in the way.

At the time of the interview, don’t just jump into the questions. Take time to build some rapport. This will help reduce the stress level.

Then, when you start asking questions, begin with broad ones — “tell me about your work” or “what were your last three business trips?” —  that aren’t simple yes or no. Then, over time, move in to more narrow, specific questions.

When it’s time to get to the hard questions, help the subject prepare themselves psychology. Preface then by saying something along the lines of, “I have to ask you a tough question.”

When concluding the interview, ask: Is there anything else I should know but didn’t ask you? That can prompt the sharing of additional information.

Finally, be sure to thank them for their time and cooperation. Be sure to also reiterate what the investigation process is and what they can expect next.

Listen in to learn more, and, maybe, join her at an upcoming Fundamentals of Compliance Investigations workshop.