Workplace Investigation Questions and the question of what and how to ask questions during an interview.
The interview is typically a means to gather evidence, to clarify point made in a complaint, to find out what people saw, heard or experienced and also an opportunity for the person subject who is the subject of the complaint to provide their side of the story.
There are two key elements to the actual interview that are of paramount importance - asking questions and listening to the answers.
It is important that investigators ask question that are legally complainant and get the best answers from the interviewee. Here are some suggestions
Types of questions
- Open questions – that encourage free recall
- “Sarah had alleged that you swore at her during the meeting on the 10th, would you care to comment about that?”
- “Can you tell me about the meeting on the 10th?”
- “I would like to ask you about the meeting on the 10th, can you tell me what happened?”
- Closed questions - usually get a Yes or No answer.
- “Did you swear at Sarah during the meeting on the 10th?”
- Leading questions - direct the interviewee toward an answer and should be avoided. Leading questions may be classed as inadmissible if the matter goes to court
- “You swore at Sarah during the meeting on the 10th, didn’t you?”
- Suggestive questions – suggest to the interviewee what the answer should be, this should be avoided.
- “It sounds like you are telling me is that you swore at Sarah during the meeting on the 10th, am I right?”
- Multiple questions - only tend to confuse the interviewee
- “Were you at the meeting on the 10th, was Sarah there and did you swear at her?”
- Repetitive questions - will tend to annoy or frustrate an interviewee, if you need to repeat a question re-frame it.
- “Can you tell me what you said to Sarah at the meeting on the 10th?”
- Negative Questions - are used when the person who asks expects a positive answer, this can agitate an interviewee and they can claim that you are putting words in their mouth hey may also show a biased attitude
- “Shouldn’t you have treated Sarah with more respect?”
- Statements or opinions – have no place in an interview. Your opinion is not relevant during an interview and making statements may damage the rapport you have established with the interviewee, they may also show a biased attitude
- “I think that you did swear at Sarah, you should tell me the truth.”
A good interviewer will use a combination of open and closed questions, re-framed where necessary.
Lead with open questions, clarify with closed questions
During an interview it is important to listen to the answers provided by the interviewee.
Focus on the answers provided by the interviewee and not your next question.
Take notes during the interview;
- Comments/information to follow up on.
- Outstanding information.
As a general rule of thumb a recorded interview should be 80% the interviewee talking and 20% the interviewer.
Especially when the interview is being recorded, be very careful not to use affirming comments in the case for example “yes” or “I agree” or “yes that’s terrible” or “I understand”
Comment such as these can imply a bias on behalf of the interviewer.
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