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Mr. Glasser

Security & Safety

Hotel Security: Helpful Interviewing and Information Gathering Techniques

By Marc Glasser, Managing Director, RM LLC

Helpful interviewing and information gathering techniques can be vital to inquiries of significance to organizational, individual or other concerns. This article discusses information relating to successful interviewing and information gathering as well as challenges that could detract from attaining important information. Article information can be helpful, encompassing the spectrum of casual conversations to formal investigations; however, before conducting workplace interviews consult appropriate organizational representatives. Further, after reading this article, even if one is uncomfortable conducting interviews, the information provided will help in assessing the qualifications and techniques of those being considered to conduct interviews and gather information.

Interview Definition

An interview is the questioning of a person who is believed to possess knowledge that is of interest to the interviewer and inquiry and/or affiliated entity. In an interview the person questioned usually presents his/her account of an incident or circumstances and/or offers information relating to the inquiry.

Importance and Scope

In many inquiries interviews constitute the major source of information. The interviewer may have to demonstrate the qualities of a salesperson, actor and psychologist. He/she may be called upon to subject coworkers, strangers, or anyone in between, to extensive questioning on a variety of subjects with different levels of sensitivity. They must possess insight, intelligence and persuasiveness. And interviewer's speech should be suited to the situation, compelling and calculated to garner an appropriate and accurate response.

Rapport and Personality

The relationship existing between the interviewer and interviewee usually determines the success of the inquiry. By establishing rapport with the interviewee the interviewer may be able to extract a significant amount of useful information. Conversely, if the relationship is strained or marked by mistrust or discomfort the interviewee may be unwilling to discuss any related information. It is of fundamental importance that the interviewer gain the confidence of the interviewee to the greatest extent possible, since civilian interviews (non-law enforcement) must be completely voluntary.

To establish rapport with an interviewee, it may be necessary to create or highlight areas of common interests. A person tends to regard another person who shares common interests as a sympathetic personality. Therefore, the range of the interviewer's interests must be broad and appropriate for persons being interviewed. A successful interviewer possesses a breadth of practical knowledge and is acquainted with general traits, behaviors, lifestyles and general information of the interviewee.

Additionally, it is vitally important to realize that generally the first few minutes will determine the tenor of the entire interview. If the interviewer permits a clash of personalities or creates a tense atmosphere, the witness may "clam up" and refuse to divulge information.

The interviewer's primary trait should be forcefulness (nonviolent/devoid of physical contact). They should instinctively induce confidence by the strength of their character so that the interviewee trusts them on the first meeting and tends to seek their assistance by confiding in them. Initially there should be no air of superiority in their manner. Their demeanor should be sympathetic and understanding. Absence of exaggerated regional traits helps to avoid any clash with the interviewees' prejudices. Tolerance should mark the interviewer's temperament.

When rapport is not established, the interviewer must rely on the power of his or her personality, persistence, or other permissible qualities or resources which he or she may possess. The interviewer may have to use a variety several styles, various character traits or apparent personality characteristic to obtain information without reliance on rapport.

Interview Initiation and Follow-Up

The interviewer should start the interview with a few friendly remarks. Conversation on the weather, the difficulties of his profession and/or matters of mutual interest should serve to "warm up" the atmosphere. Although friendly in his or her approach the interviewer must maintain a dispassionate, businesslike manner. When the interviewer feels the interviewee is in a communicative mood, he/she should direct the conversation toward acquiring the desired information. The interviewee should be given every opportunity to provide a complete account, without interruptions. Inconsistencies should be noted as well as other matters requiring clarification or elaboration.

After the interviewee has provided initial information, the interviewer should review it with him or her and request clarification of inconsistencies, significant information or matters requiring additional elaboration. Relevant matters omitted should also be addressed. Follow-up techniques include the following.

Guiding the Conversation

Many interviewees have a tendency to ramble. Often their answers are lengthy and not responsive. The interviewer must control the interview so that complete and accurate information is obtained.

Corroborating Information

Corroborating information obtained from multiple interviewees or sources should be correlated and evaluated based on accuracy and credibility of sources.

Inaccuracies

Discrepancies, falsehoods, and inaccuracies may become apparent during the interview. Questionable points should be treated repeatedly by rewording queries and by additional questions. Honest mistakes need to be distinguished from misrepresentations.

One Question at a Time

A multiplicity of questions tends to confuse the interviewee's and detracts from the orderly conduct of the interview. Answers can be more easily segregated if a leisurely, logical procedure is used.

Avoid Implied Answers

The interview becomes futile if the answers are suggested in the questions. The objective is to find out what the person knows. Suggesting the answer defeats that purpose.

Simplicity of Questions

Long, complicated, legalistic questions only serve to confuse and irritate. The interviewee may answer that they do not know when in reality they do not understand the question. In addition, such questions may embarrass interviewees and may cause resentment.

Saving Face

If the interviewees' answers address an embarrassing situation by reason of his exaggerations or errors of time, description or other information the interviewer should cooperate with the interviewee and permit them to 'save face". The interviewer should not ridicule the interviewee for stupidity, poor judgment, or other deficiency. The interviewer should assist the interviewee to help separate misrepresentation from unintentional mistakes.

"Yes" or "No" Questions

Person being questioned should have the opportunity to present relevant knowledge in its entirety by asking open ended questions. For example, "Where were you on Wednesday afternoon?" As opposed to "Were you at the office on Wednesday afternoon?" Asking "yes" or "no" questions often result in inaccurate answers and impede the "flow of information". Where such responses are concerned "qualification" of the answers is usually much more advantageous in soliciting information than asking "yes" or "no" questions.

Controlling the Interview and Safety

The interviewer's confidence and authority communicate themselves to the interviewee. Hesitancy and doubt encourage evasion; weakness fosters resistance. If the interviewee appears to be difficult to control, unstable or shows signs of possible physical aggression, terminate the interview and seek the safety and support of others. Additionally, proactive safety measures could include having another individual or individuals in the same room or vicinity of the interview. However, consider the possibility of that the more individuals present the less likely and interviewee may be willing to communicate.

In addition, generally, one must be aware of possible sexual harassment or discrimination claims by the interviewee and think of proactive measures to mitigate possible false claims. For example, as highlighted above, multiple persons may be present at the interview. Even if the interview is being conducted in private based on a legal requirement or other concerns, the "privacy" may in reality be a "glass" office where others can view the interview but not hear the verbal exchange.

Documenting

The proper use of the note taking activity is a matter of judgment which will depend on the nature of the interview and the character of the person to be interviewed. If the interview is concerned with sensitive matters, the appearance of the notebook at an early stage may instill excessive caution in the interviewee. After introducing him or herself the interviewee should listen to the interviewer's information without taking notes. At the conclusion, the interviewer may request permission to record the pertinent information in writing or proceed with without asking permission. With the interviewees' full knowledge and consent, audio recording of the interview may also be an option. For workplace information gathering activities check with your appropriate organizational professional for guidance.

Other Factors to Consider

While this article addresses a considerable amount of information, other interview and information gathering factors to consider, but not limited to, include the following: nonverbal communication; the need to separate multiple interviewees; cultural, regional or international customs or indicators that if unknown may be misinterpreted; youth versus adult interviews; rapport and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP); specific interview techniques related to a "suspect", "informant" or "victim" and limits and knowing when to involve interview professionals such as law-enforcement, legal and human resources professionals, polygraphist, hypnotists and other subject matter experts. Further information relating to the aforementioned will benefit those interviewing or seeking effective information gathering techniques.

Conclusion

Appropriate interviewing and information gathering skills are vital to inquiries of significance to organizational, individual or other concerns. Information obtained through these techniques is helpful, encompassing the spectrum from casual conversations to formal investigations. After reading this article one may possess the basic skills to elicit desired information using appropriate interviewing and information gathering techniques. However, before conducting workplace interviews consult your manager and/or appropriate organizational human resources for legal guidance. Further, after reading this article, even if one is uncomfortable in conducting an interview, the information provided will help in assessing the qualifications and likelihood of desired information outcomes of those being considered to conduct interviews and gather information.

Marc Glasser is the Managing Director of RM (Protection Risk Management) LLC. RM LLC provides security, business continuity, and emergency management services spanning the protection of life, operations, assets and stakeholder value. He directs risk management, security, and business continuity programs (including business impact and supply chain analysis) to mitigate vulnerabilities, including natural (e.g., floods, earthquakes, hurricanes), technical (e.g., utility service disruptions, hazardous materials incidents), and intentional (e.g., terrorism, theft, espionage). Mr. Glasser can be contacted at 702-809-3434 or mglasser@rmllc.com Extended Bio...

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