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Interview and Interrogation Training: The Participatory Interview Video Series

By creating structure in the interview, the participatory approach allows us to leave the area of greatest resistance to the end.

This week’s International Association of Interviewers interview and interrogation training series, provided by Wicklander-Zulawski, has Chris Norris, CFI, director of WZ Europe and international training, talking about the participatory method.

What Is the Participatory Approach?

The participatory method is a fact-gathering interview with structure. Too often, investigators go into a fact-gathering interview with the mindset of “Let’s see if he did it,” or “Let’s see if he knows anything about it,” or “Let’s see what we can find out.”

By creating structure in the interview, the participatory approach allows us to leave the area of greatest resistance to the end.

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For instance, let’s say I need to talk to someone about time theft—getting paid for hours they didn’t work when they’re clocked in. If I bring that topic up early, if I bring them into the office and say, “I want to talk to you about your time card and the hours you’re working,” that might invite a great deal of resistance right away.

Rather than approaching the interview by starting out with what it is we want to talk about, what we can do is neatly tuck away the information that we’re after by starting with more broad, more ambiguous subject matter. We then work toward the topic of greatest concern from our perspective.

Think of it as a funnel. If I start the interview with a very broad, ambiguous, and general approach, then work myself down this path to where we’re eventually talking about what we need to discuss. That benefits the interviewer to determine the truthfulness of the statement someone provides—and whether or not they’re involved.

When to Use the Participatory Interview Method

The participatory method is an approach that we use when we have a suspicion of someone being involved in an issue under investigation. But when should you use the participatory method?

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Think of it like this. If you have information that someone is directly involved in an incident—you have direct evidence or detailed information about their involvement—there may not be a need to sit down and conduct an interview to determine their guilt. Instead, you might sit down with them and have an accusatory interview seeking the truth and gaining an acknowledgment for their involvement.

The participatory method is used when we’re not sure whether someone is involved, or if there could be a reasonable explanation for what someone in the investigation has revealed.

For an example, if there’s an incident where someone had been changing prices or expensing something that wouldn’t normally be approved, rather than accusing them of changing prices in an illicit way or submitting phony expenses, a participatory interview allows investigators to conduct an investigation to determine someone’s intent.

The key to the participatory approach is starting with broad, generic, ambiguous subject matter and working our way into talking about what we’re there for.

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It’s an impactful, effective approach to a fact-gathering interview with a great structure.

Editor’s Note: Watch the videos, then read on for a note on the participatory interview by WZ’s Dave Thompson, CFI—and a bonus video tip.

An International Association of Interviewers interview and interrogation training tip from the archives, provided by Wicklander-Zulawski, has Dave Thompson, CFI, discussing how to use the participatory approach during the interview.

The participatory approach is specifically used when there’s circumstantial evidence or that there’s a possibility that your subject might have an excuse, an explanation, so some type of alibi that may or may not be true.

The way the participatory approach is engineered is to conceal the topic of your conversation, or at least the target of the conversation. For example, if you wanted to figure out if an employee understood the discount policy because they violated it, you can’t walk in the room and ask them directly about it. They have an incentive to lie to you.

Instead, we conceal what we want to know, and we start the conversation talking about other, related topics. Maybe what they do on any given day, for instance. Then we might talk about things they do on the cash register, and the conversation eventually gets led down a path where they’re going to talk about the discount policy.

One of the great benefits about using the participatory approach is that it’s really a fact-finding approach that allows the subject to contribute to the conversation; which means at the end of it you might realize that there is no intent and it turns into a training issue. Or you might realize there is some intent and they provide incriminating evidence that allows you to transition into an interrogation.

The participatory approach is great for all different types of cases, from audit, compliance, human resources, theft, and even cases in the public sector.

Every loss prevention investigator should continuously strive to enhance their investigative interviewing skills as part of an ongoing commitment to best-in-class interviewing performance. This includes holding ourselves to an elite standard of interview and interrogation training that is ethical, moral and legal while demanding excellence in the pursuit of the truth. The International Association of Interviewers (IAI) and Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) provide interview and interrogation training programs and additional guidance to investigators when dealing with dishonest employees, employee theft, sexual harassment, policy violations, building rapport, pre-employment interviewing, lying, denials and obtaining a statement.

By focusing on the latest information and research from experts in the field as well as academia, legal and psychological resources, these video tips provide interview and interrogation training techniques that can enhance the skill sets of professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement, loss prevention, security, asset protection, human resources, auditors or anyone looking to obtain the truth.

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