Understanding the importance of investigative interviewing techniques.
Our team recently participated in three days of investigative interviewing training with Wicklander-Zulawski, a national leader in the training of professional interviewers. This training was insightful and helped build upon a skill set that is often overlooked in the human resources profession.
As HR professional, conducting internal investigations is a key aspect of the job. Being careful to ask the tough questions without creating unnecessary trauma is skill that is needed, especially in matters involving harassment and discrimination.
Here are 3 key reminders about how to conduct good investigative interviews.
First, treat each interviewee with respect. Interviewees are people who come with work with histories and experiences that may not be clear to the employer. Some have experienced prior life trauma and being asked questions, which are sometimes invasive, can be demoralizing and painful. Showing empathy is the key skill to developing rapport and respect with the interviewee and allowing them to feel comfortable sharing important details.
Second, avoid promises of confidentiality. In most employment investigations, the best you can do is assure the interviewee that the information they share will be on a “need to know basis.” Employers are unable to promise absolute confidentiality as there may be a need to confront the person whose behavior is being questioned, discussing the matter with legal counsel, or responding to a legal claim. Don’t set yourself up to violate an agreement with an employee.
Third, develop good listening skills. Don’t just hear the interview, listen to him or her. Show them that you care about what they have to say and that you are actively following their story. Clarify when you need to but otherwise let the witness take their time.
If you follow these three steps, you will be more likely to benefit from good interviews, reduce fear and distrust among employees, and demonstrate effective professionalism.