One of the keys to a successful investigation is getting the facts straight. An investigation built on false information isn’t going to solve any problems – it will only create them. To better understand the facts of an investigation, investigators rely heavily on evidence and investigation interviews. However, are the statements made during investigation interviews credible? Sure, we’d like to believe that everything we hear is truthful, but it’s not always the case.
During investigation interviews, investigators need to act as human lie detectors. Here are 5 helpful tips from the EEOC to assist you in determining credibility during investigation interviews:
1. Is there a reason to lie?
Sometimes people have ulterior motives. Examine relationships between the people involved in the investigation to determine whether or not personal relationships or loyalties could interfere with someone’s statements or their account of the events. Bias and personal preference greatly influence someone to make false statements. If the subject of the investigation is friends with one of the witnesses, perhaps their friendship motivates the witness to lie in order to protect their friend.
The fear of retaliation is another factor that might cause someone to lie. If so, be sure to address these issues at the outset of the interview. Remind the witness of the company’s zero-tolerance policy regarding retaliation, and encourage the employee to come forward in the event that he or she experiences retaliation.
2. Physical and verbal giveaways
There are certain physical and verbal tendencies people resort to when they are lying. However, many of the same tendencies are also present when someone is nervous – which is expected during an investigation. Some people may have had time to rehearse their story, so they might not show any verbal or physical signs of lying even though they are. Determining credibility is tricky.
Has the subject of the investigation been found guilty or reprimanded for similar activity on previous occasions? History has been known to repeat itself. Past behaviour is often – though not always – predictive of future conduct. It’s important to be aware of the presence of repeat offenders, and to be able to review the results of any prior investigations that might be relevant to the current situation.
4. Inherent plausibility
Do the statements seem valid? Does the person’s story make sense? Sometimes it’s obvious when someone’s lying because their story is all over the place and the events and times simply don’t match up. Which brings us to the last tip…
Look for physical evidence, written documents and other information that supports the statements made. Watch for common themes or discrepancies in statements provided by the complainant, the subject and any witnesses in order to get a better picture of what actually took place. Since witnesses can take many forms, their statements must be weighed and considered for accuracy. For example, a witness who saw the incident occur might have a better recall of events over a witness that saw or talked to the complainant – or subject, right after the incident took place. If the interviewee’s word is consistent with the evidence provided, you can usually consider their statements to be valid.
The most important thing an investigator can do during an investigation is not jump to conclusions. Just because one of the above-mentioned factors is present during an investigation interview doesn’t automatically mean that the person is lying to you. If an employee has a history of causing problems in the workplace, don’t immediately assume they are guilty. Perhaps other employees see them as a target because of their reputation in the workplace and assume they can falsely accuse the person of things they never did. It’s up to you to use your best judgment to determine credibility.
About the Author
Lindsay Walker is the Corporate Journalist at Customer Expressions Corporation, developers of the i-Sight investigative case management software platform, an integrated and customizable solution for corporate investigations. She maintains the company blog at http://i-sight.com.