3 Investigative Interviewing Techniques for a Successful Phone Interview

Female investigator at desk in a home, looking at laptop, phone in hand

While face-to-face interviews are always preferable, there are times when they are simply not possible. But many investigative interviewing techniques, conducted over the phone, do not yield satisfactory results due to simple errors in judgment or lack of professionalism. 

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Yes, there is an art to a great phone interview, and it is up to you to ensure you nail it.

Many private investigators, particularly those who work for law firms, engage often in phone interviews with witnesses and potential witnesses. You may have met with hesitant individuals or those who are nervous about providing you with information, and you may even talk to individuals who are less-than-forthcoming with you about what they know. 

Don’t pick up the phone until you are adequately prepared

Take the time to study the particulars of the case before making the phone call, including all of the facts of the case and the people involved in the case. It is also important to write down the list of questions you plan on asking the individual so you don’t lose your focus in the middle of the phone call.

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It is extremely important not to pick up the phone until you feel adequately prepared. Otherwise, a half-hearted investigation may not get you all the information you’re hoping to get.

Take the time to build rapport with the individual

Be it criminal interviews or a witness interview, investigative phone interviews, sometimes, can take a toll on both parties. As such, it is important to build rapport with the individual. The best way to do this would be to ask basic questions such as “how has your day been?” or “how’s everything going?”. 

An investigative phone interview should not be forced, especially if you know that there will not be much you can learn for your investigation. 

Regardless of the attitude or demeanor of the individual, you must always maintain an air of professionalism as a private investigator, and that means remaining patient, respectful and sympathetic, if necessary. 

It is also always important to let the individual know that you are mindful of their time and that you are flexible enough to talk to them at a time that is convenient for them. Your thoughtful words and demeanor will likely set the tone of the conversation, thereby allowing you to build a rapport with the individual and experience a successful phone interview.

Spend as much time listening as you do talking

Many investigative phone interview techniques will be taught to you during PIs courses when you get trained, but the main one is to spend as much time listening as speaking. 

This may seem rather obvious, but many of us fail to listen properly when engaged in a conversation, and we often are completely unaware of this! If you ask a question, make a conscious effort to listen instead of thinking about your next question. 

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Don’t talk over people, and respond to their answers to let them know you heard what they had to say and are not simply digging for information.

So there it is – the top 3 tips for investigative phone interviews! Just like any other interviewing techniques, practicing these will take practice too.