What do you do when you come to the end of your investigative interview? You have no more questions to ask and you’re tired. You just want to the interview to end so you can decompress, go to the washroom or grab a refreshment. Your head feels like it’s going to explode.

Just because you have finished asking your pre-prepared questions doesn’t mean the interview is over. When wrapping up, stand up, partially block the door, and continue to engage the interviewee in conversation. Keep them talking.

Like the World War II saying goes: “Loose lips sink ships.” If you are not familiar with this expression, it means beware of “unguarded talk”. People during World War II were admonished to not speak about anything relating to the war for fear of it ending up in the enemy’s possession. A slip of the tongue to the wrong person such as a spy or collaborator could result in a ship or ships being sunk by a torpedo and the significant loss of life and war materiel.

Unfortunately, not everyone adheres to this old idiom. There’s a person in every crowd who has a case of loose lips. They love to talk. With this technique, the interviewee may think the interview is over and may tell you things they never told you during the interview. It could be information they deliberately withheld or new information that just came to mind.

Summarize any action items agreed upon during the interview. This may include any documents or articles of evidence they have agreed to supply you with.

Then, as a final question ask: Is there anything else you would like to add or tell me about? Keep the interviewee talking. You’d be surprised what people will tell you.

I remember an old boss who used this technique with employment interviewing. She had been interviewing a candidate for a high-profile executive secretary position. The interviewee came across very well and impressed my boss. When the interview was over, my boss walked with the interviewee to the front lobby all the while carrying on a conversation and asking questions. The interviewee inadvertently let out a really big yawn. When asked about the yawn, the interviewee admitted that she had been out until the wee hours of the morning drinking and partying at a local club. She admitted to being a frequent club partier and was hung over. It was an ill-advised comment by the interviewee. It raised a major red flag with my boss about the interviewee’s ability to attend work rested, fit and ready to tackle a heavy and extremely demanding workload every day.The interviewee did not get the job.
My advice is to keep the interviewee in the room as long as you can to try to milk them for as much information as possible. Every little tidbit of information helps. When done, let them out of the room. Always be polite and courteous.

Thanks to Greg Coulter for the article suggestion!