Planning is essential in so many areas of life, although it is often neglected. Just last week, my family had the opportunity to plan for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew and a month before that for Hurricane Hermenes. We attempted to focus on eventualities so that we might be ready in the event of the unknown. It is like Dwight Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible.” One of my sons is an Army aviator, and in a discussion with him he said, “a pound of planning is worth a ton of execution.”
Planning is essential to effective interviewing, but despite this, when I am teaching interviewing a large number of attendees often admit to “winging” interviews. This is the worse. Have I “winged” interviews? Absolutely, and the results were commensurate with the investment. We know from research studies that less than 10% of all interviews have adequate planning associated with them. That is a dismal statistic and from my experience it is accurate.
We plan enough to know where we are going, who we are talking to, and why we are going, but sometimes not much more, and that handicaps our ability to elicit the greatest quantity and quality of information from the interviewee. I recognize if we are in investigation, audit, inspection, or whatever area we have a great deal of responsibility. But within that. we know how important this interview is and how essential it is to get what we need. If it warrants our attention, have we invested proportionately to insure our results?
Recognize that this planning takes place before we get into the interview room but should continue throughout the interview as you develop relationship and learn who this interviewee is. What are some areas we should consider?
Who is this that I am interviewing? Have I done all I can do to figure out who this person is? What are areas to establish effective rapport? “People like to talk to people like themselves,” have I maximized my ability to take advantage of this. What is their possible motivation for what they did? What makes them tick? Have I explored social media, talked to supervisors, spoken to trusted contacts?
What is my strategic approach to the interview?
What style of interview approach will I use? Have I strategically considered the best approach? How much evidence do I possess and what effect will that have on my purpose transition? Am I prepared to adjust and adapt and considered possible eventualities from the interviewee?
Have I strategized plausible themes to address that are personal and unique to the interviewee?
We all understand the necessity of employing themes built around rationalization, projection, and minimization, but to execute these robotically can do more to sabotage your work to this point than help it. These themes need to be planned out with everything else. Our work prior to the interview can often times find those themes. I have seen individuals essentially put their reason, and hence their theme, right on Facebook. Whether it is financial, a family illness, a broken relationship, it is there for the taking. When we personalize our themes and make them specific and unique to the interviewee our success in execution multiplies exponentially. That of course in concert with some sincerity in voice and the ability to “weave a yarn” increases success.
Based on the inquiry, have I considered the realm of denials that might be offered and my ability to counter them?
I had a seasoned interviewing professional in a class one time say that she can’t stand people lying to her and that adversely affects her attitude. Her attitude change then compounded the issue of getting cooperation. It is a given that interviewees in a tough position will lie, and they will offer denials. Once a lie is verbalized we have an irrational commitment to backing it up. Given this, the more planning we employ, the better able we will be to see where these denials may be employed, and the greater our ability to defeat them will be. Defeating them means, if at all possible, we must shut them down before verbalized.
What are some other topics to consider in this “pound of planning”?
Motive – Throughout the investigative process we should always consider what made this person do what they did. Attempt to view it through their eyes, not yours. Minimize your bias. If you can place yourself in their shoes, you will be much better equipped to rationalize their decision, or mistake, away.
Fears – We must keep their fears at the forefront of our minds. We have to effectively deal with these fears and refocus them on hope for the future in order to get them to admit to wrongdoing or tell the truth. The better we are able to do that as a joint plan or project, and the greater the rapport we develop, the more effective we will be.
Question Formulation – If we have gotten to the point of accusation, we must know what evidence exists and has been put on the table. Don’t make definitive evidence hypothetical when we accuse. It is what it is, and like my Dad always said, “it is not what you say, Mark, but how you say it.” Be confident and clear in the accusation and return to providing hope as discussed above. The more we plan this the less likely of wording lapses in the interview room.
We need to make strategic planning a part of preparation for every interview we do. When you do, notice the effect on completely eliciting the greatest quantity and quality of information from your interviewees. We provide training on interview and investigation planning as part of our curriculum, as well as, discuss the many areas in the interview where proper planning facilitates
Anderson Investigative Associates is positioned to custom tailor training to your specific needs. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss the above or any training need, please reach out to me. Additional issues pertaining to interviewing and investigations can be found in other blogs that I have written and are contained in most blocks of instruction that our company presents.
If you have additional questions or comments, give me a shout. In the meantime, be well and be safe out there.
Mark A. Anderson
Director of Training and Development
Anderson Investigative Associates, llc
128 Oarsman Xing
St. Marys, GA 31558