Stefanie Hoover on Development During the Interview

“Hey, that’s great you got an admission, now find out what else and who else.”

Sometimes old habits die hard. In fact, on many occasions, they refuse to die on their own, so they must be dealt with from time to time. What started out in my career as a great habit has morphed into something else altogether at home, with my daughter. More on that later.

Early in my career, Development of the Admission, or “What Else and Who Else,” helped me to produce some good results in the field. Every time I sat in an interview room, I’d hear a voice in my head, usually my boss, saying, “Hey, that’s great you got an admission, now find out what else and who else.” Over time, I wasn’t satisfied with getting what I just had on paper or video; the real prize was getting accomplices or additional admissions.

Over the years, I developed some tricks to help me get additional nuggets of information—the frosting on the cake so to speak. There are a number of methods you could use to make it easy for the subject and yourself. Before every interview, I would pull the store roster and make notes about those folks that we knew the subject was friendly with, close to in age, or from the same neighborhood. Then I put together a key with symbols or numbers. For instance, the number 1 would indicate someone the subject had personally seen stealing, the number 2 was someone they heard was stealing, the number 3 was someone they thought could be stealing. There could be additional numbers for policy violations or harassment.

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This list could then be compared to the list I had prepared ahead of time and crosschecked to see if anyone was missing. This method could also be used with merchandise, if your store has a wide variety of merchandise. I never walked in with a pre-printed list, and instead used my memory to mentally “walk” around the store departments then took notes later, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use the list and code method with merchandise as well. If you decide to use a list of merchandise, you could have the subject make tallies next to merchandise they stole. You could also set up symbols or numbers for merchandise that the subject saw other people steal.

The caveat on these methods is that the subject must be in a cooperative mindset and feel very strongly about your investigation’s credibility, otherwise it may look like a fishing trip. I would usually wait until the additional admissions had started to flow before introducing any of these lists.

In my experience, the hardest part of the interview is getting the associate to talk about others who are stealing. It’s usually the hardest part for the interviewer to ask about as well. This might be because the area the interviewer is probing has shifted to something new, and more rationalization needs to occur. Or it might be that the interviewer is projecting a lack of confidence or not asking the questions in the right manner, using the assumptive question and a follow-up question. An example of the correct way to format these questions would be: “Jane, out of all the associates who work here, who have you seen steal merchandise? It’s not everyone is it?” What I have heard investigators do quite a bit is ask the question incorrectly: “Jane, who have you seen stealing? Was it Joe? Was it Dave? Was it Steve?” This format will get you objections every time.

Development is a part of the original interview, not a new interview. I would suggest staying with the same pace and manner of questioning that got you the first admission; it worked, which means your subject liked it. Keep in mind, introducing a list of associates or merchandise may not be the best way to go as it could be a distraction or change the feeling in the room, so you’ll have to play that by ear.

In working with new investigators over the years, I’m pretty sure they got their feelings hurt when they would call me after an interview all excited about an admission and, just as I had heard from my first bosses, my response would be: “That’s great! What else did you get?” Hopefully they know now, as I learned, that it was an effort to develop good habits as they continued their interviewing careers.

So, what happened with my daughter and development? She’s 13 years old and just experienced her first brush with theft. No, she didn’t steal, thank goodness. Someone stole from her. We coached her on some things to say, and she got a partial admission along with an apology. What do you think my questions were to my daughter? “What else did she steal? Did you get her to tell on her other friends? What else is going on?” Have I mentioned that I feel sorry for my kids? We let this one go, but I’m sure my daughter will be locked and loaded for the next interview and its development!

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