Effective Interview and Investigation Questioning

It goes without saying that one of the essential competencies required in workplace investigations (and other forms of interviews) is the ability to ask the right questions. This article offers some useful tips for effective questioning:

  • In advance of each investigation interview it is important that the main areas that need to be questioned and explored are identified and that the interview is structured.
  • Generally open questions should be used to get information (Who, What, Why, When, How etc).
  • Always probe and move from generalities to specifics  –  “Tell me exactly what happened that day? ”  “Can you tell me more about what happened” ” Can you give me a specific example of what exactly you mean when you say that she was totally unhelpful to you” “Describe how you felt when it happened”.
  • Closed questions that have Yes or No answers are less useful but there are times when they may be used to confirm specific facts or accounts.
  • Leading questions that could influence the interviewee or suggest a bias on behalf of the investigator should not be used: e.g.” Did you not think that this was a bad idea?” ” Are you sure there wasn’t a misunderstanding?”
  • Summarise often to ensure that you have understood correctly what is being said but don’t judge ” Let me make sure I understand you correctly…you were angry because you felt your colleague should have done more on the day of the conference?”.
  • If you don’t understand responses, clarify what is being said by the interviewee.
  • Ensure that notes are typed up as quickly as possible after meetings and issued for review and sign off  in line with the Terms of Reference.