An interview can have either a broad scope or a narrower focus, depending on the needs of the investigation. A private investigator needs to determine the scope of the interview, to establish goals and objectives, including what information is sought, and to prepare properly in advance of the meeting. This can be achieved by reviewing the case file, developing a specific line of questioning, utilizing the 5W/H method, and using a reputable form series (Nemeth 41).
The general purpose of any interview is to gathers facts and evidence to support or refute a claim (Nemeth 37). More specific purposes include “an initial visitation with a prospective client, an ongoing dialogue with a long-term client, an observational review and analysis of a witness or suspect statement, an interrogation of a suspected wrongdoer, a character assessment by a suspect’s neighbor, or a background information check” (Nemeth 37). Additionally, interviews are conducted to “obtain evidence or a confession to aid in prosecution, eliminate suspects, recover property, and obtain information that results in corrective action” (Pupura 285).
Four universally agreed-upon practices in conducting a successful interview are: 1) “select[ing] a time and a place that is mutually convenient,” 2) “prepar[ing] in advance,” 3) “begin[ing] the interview on a cooperative and pleasant note,” and 4) “establish[ing] rapport with the respondent or interviewee” (Nemeth 37). These are important because they aid in establishing the investigator’s credibility as a competent professional and act as a baseline from which to operate. Preparing in advance provides the investigator with confidence, which, in turn, allows him or her to build rapport and control the interview. When the investigator has the upper hand during the social interaction, he or she can guide the questions and follow-up questions in a smooth and systematic way, decreasing the time needed to obtain information and improving chances of acquiring both accurate and thorough answers. Additional best practices for a private investigator during an interview include “maintaining eye contact, not jumping to conclusions, maintaining an open mind, maintaining perseverance, analyzing hearsay, and helping the suspect tell the truth” (Purpura 286).
Nemeth, Charles P. Private Security and the Investigative Process. 3rd ed. CRC Press: New York, 2010. Print.
Pupura, Phillip P. Security and Loss Prevention: An Introduction. 6th ed. Elsevier: New York, 2013. Print.