Interviews, statements and interrogation methods are often glamorously portrayed in today’s media. The popularity of crime dramas and mysteries on television make getting that crucial bit of information a cornerstone to solving the entire case; it is often a tense confrontation that brings the witness to high anxiety levels before they blurt out the truth, and the entire circumstance is resolved before the credits run.
In reality, that’s not quite how it goes.
A statement is taken from the person directly involved in the incident. An interrogation is conducted in pursuit of a criminal case, and often follows a pattern of development for law enforcement to draw out the information from someone reluctant to talk. An interview is more related to a conversation, and may involve witnesses, co-workers, or people only peripherally involved with the subject of the case. There are no pressure tactics, no judgments and no implications. Interviews carry a different social dynamic than interrogations. Interviews are not one-way conversations.
For situations involving fraud, civil cases, accident investigations, workplace injuries and the like, interviews can help to provide a vital piece of the puzzle. Interviews provide information. This information can be the “smoking gun” that you see in TV shows, but more often than not, it leads to other people or events that assist in fleshing out the details. Interviews almost always provide some sort of data that may be used in answering, “What happened?”
In order to conduct an effective interview, the investigator must have an understanding of the case, of the client’s needs, and an understanding of the interviewee. If the investigator is kept in the dark about the case, his or her questions will not be effective, and valuable information pertinent to the case could be overlooked. Understanding the client’s needs is also necessary to maintain the focus of an interview. Understanding the interviewee is important on many levels; the most obvious is that of speaking the same language, both verbal and nonverbal. Spoken language is but a tiny portion of interviews; studies have shown that only 7% of our language is oral. 38% of meaning is conveyed through tone of voice, and 55% is conveyed through body language. An enormous amount of information is expressed through nonverbal means. If the investigator is able to recognize these cues, he or she is able to more effectively communicate with the person they are interviewing.
Finally, it is important for the investigator to know the relationship between the main subject of the case and the person they are interviewing. Psychodynamics is the study of motivations that help steer human behavior. The interview could go in many dramatically different directions if, for example, the person being interviewed was an ex-spouse, or was an employee that was fired by the subject. Understanding motivators during an interview is tremendously helpful for a case.
An effective interview can provide invaluable information for a case. Being able to conduct such an interview requires a skillset that is not immediately recognizable, but can help to fit that last puzzle piece in place for the client.