Traditional Styles of Interview in Investigations

Effective interview styles are situational.
Effective interview styles are situational. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A successful investigation depends on conducting effective interviews. The main goal of an interview is to obtain truthful information. Many individuals can be trained to conduct interviews. Experienced interviewers may use different styles, however, there are interview styles that have been historically proven to be productive. The traditional techniques that work best depend on the situation and environment surrounding the investigation.

Interview Types

In non-accusatory interviews, the interviewer does not directly accuse the person of any wrongdoing. Interviewers often use the cognitive interviewing style in non-accusatory interviews. This style consists of a person slowly reconstructing an event in different ways to enhance clarity and completeness. In accusatory interviews, also called interrogations, the interviewer directly confronts someone with accusations regarding the situation under investigation. In all interviews, the interviewer is to act professionally, build rapport, show empathy, communicate clearly and determine if she believes the person is speaking truthfully.

Victim Interviews

Victim interviews are non-accusatory and involve gathering information from a person who just experienced an emotional loss. The interviewer may need to delay the interview until the person is able to keep their emotions in check well enough to provide detailed information regarding the incident. The interviewer is to show empathy and ask the victim to provide further details if his statements are general. At a minimum, the interviewer must gather sufficient information to use in follow-up conversations.

Witness Interviews

Witness interviews should be conducted as soon as practical after an incident. Witnesses can provide valuable details regarding the incident itself or specific individuals involved. Witnesses should be asked open-ended questions which allow for as much detail as possible to be recalled and documented. Witnesses may become suspected of wrongdoing before or during a witness interview, but the interviewer should refrain from accusing the witness until it is determined that an interrogation should be conducted.


Suspect interviews normally begin in a non-accusatory fashion. In the introductory statement style, the interviewer makes initial statements, sometimes deceptive, and evaluates the person's verbal and nonverbal responses. In the participatory accusation style, the interviewers ask the person's knowledge on specific items relevant to the investigation to gauge signs of dishonesty. The interviewer must use his judgment to determine if the individual is showing signs of guilt before making direct accusations. Once the suspect admits wrongdoing, the interviewer has her prepare and sign a written confession.

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