As interviewers, we often share with colleagues how we fared with our various investigations and subsequent interviews. We spend a great deal of time discussing our favorite parts of the interview–the rationalization(s), handling the denial(s), and ultimately how and when we got the submission. However, one aspect of the loss prevention interrogation or interview that doesn’t get as much attention in these discussions is the establishment of rapport with the individual.
Using rapport-building techniques with the subject can aid in gleaning information that can help identify and build rationalizations to be used later in the interview process. Establishing a rapport is a critical part of the interview, helping to build trust and injecting a certain level of serenity into the process.
When a dishonest employee or other individual who is being interviewed first sits down in front of you, he or she doesn’t know what to expect. As a result, they might feel anxious, which can quickly transition into defensiveness. Taking the time to get to know the person may help ease this apprehension, and may even prevent the individual from escalating into a defensive state.
By the same respect, there are times when the individual may take a hostile or defensive demeanor prior to the discussion. In these situations, taking the time to connect with the individual may diffuse his or her aggressiveness so you can start the interview from a better foundation.
Lastly, what if the individual doesn’t want to talk? You can use this opportunity to open up the lines of communication–establishing rapport and building credibility at the same time.
Rapport-Building Techniques in an Interview
So how do you establish rapport? What do you say to build that level of trust with the individual? It helps if you know a little about the background of the person you are interviewing. Taking the time to understand the individuals’ interests, hobbies, passions, and similar pursuits prior to the actual interview can give the interviewer a tactical advantage. Talking about interests or topics that resonate both with the interviewer and the interviewee can bridge the distance between them at the start of the interview. Discussing a common or mutually shared interest may also provide additional credibility to the rapport-building process since most people convey a certain level of passion when they speak about things that are well known to them or about which they are comfortable conversing.
So how much time does one spend on rapport-building techniques? Obviously, this can vary from interview to interview depending on the situation. In my experience, I find that sometimes taking a little more time to build that connection on the front end will pay dividends on the back end.
I can recall one instance when I was conducting an internal fraud investigation, and others who knew and worked with the suspect referred to him as an “intense” individual. Specifically, he had a short temper and was described as tough to get along with. However, I also learned through some of these conversations that he had an interest in radio-controlled cars, which as it turned out, was an interest that we had in common. When I sat down with him for the interview I made a reference to the hobby, and his demeanor went from angry and aggressive to responsive and giddy in the blink of an eye. He spoke with such excitement about the differences between the cars and tracks that it seemed to influence his entire personality. Once I started the interview, it was only another 10 minutes before he admitted to conducting false refunds, stating that he used the money to buy a Traxxa E Revo (a radio-controlled car).
I firmly believe that time invested on rapport-building techniques is time well spent. While I don’t subscribe to putting a strict time limit on this part of the process (I have spent upwards of about 20 minutes developing rapport with individuals when needed), it also must be understood that our primary objective is to conduct a productive and successful interview. Balance and judgment is critical. However, a wise investment into this part of the interview can improve the flow of the conversation, make the actual interviews much quicker, and improve the final result since the individuals generally were more apt to admitting their improprieties to someone with whom they felt more comfortable.
No two interview situations are exactly the same, just as no two individuals will react exactly the same way when they are being interviewed. But spending a little extra time connecting with the individual can do more good than harm. The next time that you find yourself sharing “war stories” with your colleagues, inquire as to how much time was spent developing rapport, if any, and the resulting outcome of the interview. You may very well find that there is a correlation between those who spend a little more time building the connection and a certain level of success.
This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated February 22, 2017.