Kusserow on Compliance: Successful investigation interviews require proper preparation

Proper preparation is the number one factor for a successful interview. Do not rush into an interview until you are fully prepared. It is important to examine and understand all the facts known that relate to the matter under investigation. It is also critical to understand what information is needed to advance the investigation and to determine what the person being interviewed can contribute to this. The following tips will help ensure best results:

  1. Develop an investigation plan. Before any interviews, it is important to (a) set investigative priorities/objectives; (b) review what is known; (c) obtain needed documents; and (d) identify those people that should be interviewed, in what order.


  1. Master the known facts of the case. Review all the available facts and evidence; and decide what you need from witnesses to prove the offense or fill gaps.


  1. Properly prepare for each interview. A successful interview includes knowing who should be interview, their background, what information they may have to advance the investigation, and what documents are relevant to their interview.


  1. Develop an outline for each interview of the points to be covered in a logical manner. It should be in an abbreviated form, serving as a road map to keep things on track by addressing different topics to be covered. However, rigid adherence to an outline or detailed questions is not advisable, as it will tend to distract the interviewer from carefully listening to the witness’s answers and generating useful follow up questions.


  1. Schedule interviews as quickly as possible. Interviews of witnesses should be scheduled in a logical order to build a case, as soon as possible, before memory fades or is influenced by events.


  1. Have relevant material on hand during the interview. Have only documents present that are relevant to the interview. As appropriate, show the witness the relevant documents and let him or her review them before answering. It may assist in refreshing memory of events.


  1. Use copies of original documents for interviews. As a rule, it is best to keep original evidence secured in a controlled access location. Using copies will ensure that original ones are not lost or compromised.


  1. Take care in selecting the location and setting for the interview. Schedule interviews away from the persons work station or office. The setting for the interview should be in a place where it cannot be overheard or where there are distractions in sight and sound. As such, the person should not be near a window. It is also advisable to avoid barriers with the interviewee, such as table and desks, that may be viewed as overly formal and threatening.


  1. Allow adequate time for the interview to be conducted in an appropriate environment. Most interviews in complex cases take much longer than the witness anticipates. Conduct the interview in a professional environment; do not attempt to interview an important witness at lunch or in another social setting.


  1. Review policy regarding rights of employees during an investigation. Check with HR before conducting employee interviews to determine if employees who decline to cooperate could/would be considered insubordinate, as well as whether employee rights exist that may restrict interviews. For example, members of unions may have the right to be present and to take independent notes and/or record the meeting.

Richard Kusserow has over 40 years investigative experience including eleven years as HHS Inspector General and twelve years with the FBI. He authored “Conducting Internal Investigations in Health Care Organizations (ISBN 979-1-936230-60-8). His firm provides investigator training for clients.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.