7 Steps for conducting an effective interview

Investigative interviewing is a critical tool for gathering information.

The field and effectiveness of investigative interviews have been widely studied over decades within law enforcement used as a took to gather evidence during an investigation. It involves conducting structured interviews with witnesses, victims, and suspects to obtain accurate and reliable information.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a brief overview of the best practices for conducting effective investigative interviews. Investigative interviewing is an essential tool for law enforcement, security personnel, and other investigators to gather information and evidence for criminal or non-criminal investigations, but can also be used by others who are using interviewing to gather information.

An effective interview can provide valuable insights, uncover hidden details, and help solve cases. 

The insights and knowledge gathered from decades of research on the topic of investigative interviewing within law enforcement can also be transferred to other fields where interviewing is a key part of the role. The use of interviews is a key vehicle in everything from finance, HR and journalism to corporate audit and healthcare, to mention a few. Streamlining the process can, if done right, remove cognitive biases and create better outcomes.


  • Importance and applications: Investigative interviewing is a crucial tool for gathering accurate and reliable information, used widely in law enforcement and applicable to various fields such as finance, HR, journalism, corporate audit, and healthcare.
  • Best practices: Effective investigative interviews follow seven key steps: planning and preparation, building rapport, conducting the interview, obtaining accurate information, recording the interview, wrapping up the interview, and evaluation.
  • Training and expertise: Becoming proficient in investigative interviewing requires practice and training. The article emphasizes the availability of experienced trainers and resources to help investigators improve their skills.

The 7 key steps for conducting an effective investigative interview:

1. Planning and preparation

Before conducting an interview, it’s important to plan and prepare. This includes reviewing case files, identifying potential witnesses, and developing a strategy for the interview. It’s also important to create a comfortable and private environment for the interviewee, which can help build rapport and encourage them to provide truthful information.

2. Building rapport

Building rapport with the interviewee is crucial for gaining their trust and encouraging them to provide accurate information. This can be achieved through active listening, using open-ended questions, and showing empathy and understanding.

3. Conducting the interview

During the interview, it’s important to use effective questioning techniques to obtain accurate and reliable information. This includes using open-ended questions to encourage the interviewee to provide more detail, asking follow-up questions to clarify information, and avoiding leading questions that could influence the interviewee’s responses.

4. Obtaining accurate information

To obtain accurate information, it’s important to establish a timeline of events and ask specific questions about what happened. Interviewers should also pay attention to the interviewee’s non-verbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice, which can indicate whether they are being truthful.

5. Recording the interview

Recording the interview is important for ensuring accuracy and transparency. This can be done through note-taking or audio or video recording. It’s important to obtain the interviewee’s consent before recording and to ensure that the recording is secure and confidential.

6. Wrapping up the interview

After the interview, it’s important to thank the interviewee for their time and reiterate any important information they provided. It’s also important to provide them with contact information in case they remember any additional details or have further questions.

7. Evaluation

Evaluating the interview is important for assessing the credibility and reliability of the information obtained. This includes analysing verbal and non-verbal cues, reviewing notes or recordings, comparing the information obtained with other evidence, and determining the next steps in the investigation.

By following these best practices, investigators can conduct successful interviews and obtain valuable information for their investigations.

Note that becoming a good interviewer takes a lot of practice and training. We have an extended network of experienced trainers and can connect you with these. Reach out to learn more about training in investigative interviewing.

If you would like to learn more about the topic, there are several books to choose from. Some worth mentioning are:

Investigative Interviewing: The Conversation Management Approach by Eric Shepherd (Author), Andrew Griffths (Contributor)
Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People by Laurence Alison (Author), Emily Alison (Author)
A Guide to the Professional Interview: A Research-based Interview Methodology for People Who Ask Questions by Geir-Egil Løken (Author), Svein Tore Bergestuen (Author), Asbjørn Rachlew (Author)

ChatGPT was used in the creation of this article. 

Edited by domain experts within investigative interviewing.