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Complainant Investigation Interview Questions

Complainant investigation interview questions should be sensitive while gathering as much detail as possible.

Posted by Joe Gerard on February 23rd, 2010

A lot of effort goes into deciding which investigation questions to ask during investigation interviews. The questions in each interview need to be tailored to the incident and those you are interviewing in order to gather all of the necessary information.

This article will focus on initiating the interview with each candidate and questions to ask the complainant. The complainant interview tends to be a bit longer, as they are the first interviewed and usually are the greatest source of information regarding the incident.


Interviewing a complainant is a delicate operation.

To learn more about interviewing the complainant, download the free cheat sheet “8 Tips for Interviewing the Reporter.”

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Pre-Interview Statements

The article “Conducting Internal Investigations Of Discrimination And Harassment – Part II” by Kevin B. Leblang and Robert N. Holtzman, suggests some things to say that will help to put interviewees at ease.

First, let them know that the company is obligated to investigate all claims – which is why the interview is taking place. Let interviewees know what incident is being investigated, their role in the investigation, how the information will be used, the degree to which the company can keep the information confidential, that the interviewee must keep all interview matters confidential and assure them that there is a zero-tolerance policy regarding retaliation against them for participating in the investigation. Tell them to report any form of retaliation immediately.

It’s important to make these statements before the interview takes place because these statements answer many of the complainant’s questions. It’s also a good idea to ask them if they have any questions before the interview begins. Getting these matters out of the way before the interview begins as opposed to addressing them at the end of the interview allows for greater cooperation while questions are being asked – improving the quality of the interview and the investigation. Plus, if the interviewee knows that they are being protected from retaliation, they are more likely to be open and honest and give as much detail as possible in their answers.


RELATED: 44 Investigation Interview Questions for the Complainant, Subject, and Witnesses


Interview Questions

Even though questions need to be tailored specifically to the incident being investigated, there are some core questions that should be addressed and recorded in writing during complainant interviews. The EEOC has put together a great list of questions to ask during the complainant interview.

– The 5 Ws… and 2 Hs:

  • Who committed the alleged harassment?
  • What exactly occurred or was said?
  • When did it occur and is it still ongoing?
  • Where did it occur?
  • Why? Are there any indicators that suggest a source motivation for the subject?
  • How often did it occur?
  • How did it affect you?

– What was your reaction? What was your response when the incident(s) occurred or afterward?

– Has your job been affected in any way? Has anyone been treating you differently?

– Does anyone else have relevant information regarding this incident? Was there anyone present when the alleged harassment occurred? Did you tell anyone about it? Did anyone see you immediately after the alleged harassment took place?

– Did the person who harassed you harass anyone else? Do you know if there have been harassment complaints made about this person previously?

– Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s) that you could provide us with?

– How would you like to see the situation resolved?

– Do you know of any other relevant information?


Looking for a more comprehensive list of questions for investigation interviews? Download the free cheat sheet: Top 20 Questions to Ask in an Investigation Interview.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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