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Interviewing and Investigating in a Virtual World

Give virtual investigations and interviews as much attention and care as in-person ones

Posted by Timothy Dimoff on August 16th, 2021

As investigators, we are often called upon to utilize various methods of finding out the information we need in order to complete the investigation in a timely and efficient manner. While face-to-face communication is always the preferred method, there are times that we need to be creative and resort to online methods.

The challenge of this method is that is it non-verbal and the language of the body, facial expressions, and hand gestures are taken out of the equation, making it more difficult for you as an investigator to read if the information you are being given is honest and complete.

 

In virtual investigation interviews, investigators are missing some critical elements of communication for gathering evidence.

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There are a few tips I can offer that may make it a little easier when interviewing or investigating via a virtual world.

 

Create Structure by Being Prepared

 

Have your questions ready and all paperwork or notes in front of you as you would for an in-person interview.

 

Avoid Interruptions

 

Let the person speak and don’t interrupt. With body language taken out of the equation, it is even more important to avoid any interruptions.

Don’t speak over anyone; it can be helpful to wait after they finish before you speak. A moment of silence can often trigger more thoughts or information that they can offer.

 

Notify the Interviewee If You are Recording the Interview

 

Tell them that you are recording and get their permission before you begin asking questions.

 

RELATED: Investigation Interviews: To Record or Not to Record?

 

Prepare the Interviewee

 

Explain ahead of time to the interviewee that you will need them in a location totally separated from any and all distractions (such as TV). Express that they need to turn off any potential distractions, ESPECIALLY their cell phone, radios, etc. and to keep kids and animals out of the area.

Before you begin, double check with the interviewee that they have the allotted amount of time available for the interview. If they cut you short during the interview, that is an indication of being nervous and of them wanting out of the interview too early, which is a deception indicator.

 

Document the Interview

Record the interview’s time, date, and other relevant information. The virtual interview information that needs to be documented is the same as for an in-person interview including participant names, dates, titles, and all information relating to the interview itself.

 

Give the Interview Your Full Attention

 

Do not check emails, text or talk to anyone else during the interview. Keep your phone on mute.

 

RELATED: How to Overcome 4 Common Challenges of Virtual Investigation Interviews

 

Be Prompt and Stick to a Schedule

 

Set a specific time for the interview and stick to it. Be respectful of the interviewee’s time and avoid scheduling during lunch or other non-work times.

 

Pay Attention to the Little Things

 

While it is difficult to conduct a virtual investigation interview, paying attention to what you can see or hear can make a huge difference in the outcome and in your assessment of the information. Watch as carefully as possible to pick up any non-verbal clues that might become apparent.

 

While in-person interviews are always the preferred method, following these tips may help to make a difficult interview process yield a better result.


Timothy Dimoff
Timothy Dimoff

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues.
He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University.

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