Documenting Workplace Investigation Interviews in 3 Steps

Detailed interview reports keep the process simple and the information accessible

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on July 26th, 2011

The best workplace investigation is only as good as the reports that capture the details. A verbal account of an interview is unlikely to satisfy a judge as an accurate representation of a conversation that may have taken place weeks, or even months, ago.

So, unless it’s documented, a revelation, conflicting information, even a full confession, is worthless. An investigator must capture accurately the details of investigation interviews in a format that will hold up in court, generally by taking notes during the interview.

The hidden cameras and secret recordings of investigation interviews you see on television are pure fiction. “You can’t do that in corporate America,” he says.
The presence of video and audio recording equipment in a workplace investigation interview can make people nervous, says Greg Caldwell, an expert investigator and president of White Hat Solutions Corporate Investigations and Security Consulting. “You won’t necessarily get the same answers you would if it’s not being recorded,” he says.

And recording interviews secretly isn’t an option either, says Caldwell. The hidden cameras and secret recordings of investigation interviews you see on television are pure fiction. “You can’t do that in corporate America,” he says.

Under the circumstances, it makes sense to document interviews in writing, by taking detailed notes and completing reports.

Memorandum of Interview

“The Memorandum of interview is a very specific document that has been used in every court case I’ve been involved in,” says Caldwell. “Essentially, it is a numbered document, each paragraph is numbered. With the exception of the first paragraph every paragraph is one thought that the subject expressed.”

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The information in the memorandum should be sufficiently detailed that there’s no need for questions. “Questions should be self-evident by what you wrote,” says Caldwell.

Although the subject signs the completed memorandum of interview, a written statement is better. However, Caldwell points out that sometimes subjects don’t have the necessary writing skills. In addition, people leave things out and often change the language from active to passive, affecting the quality of the final statement.

Memorandum of Notes to File

“This is the only place the investigator would express an opinion,” says Caldwell. “Outside of a corporate case, this is where I would put notes to an attorney.”

This can include information on subjects the attorney may wish to avoid when the suspect is on the stand, the personality type, even the investigator’s opinion on the suspect’s understanding of the crime committed.

“Notes to file are generally non-discoverable, although exceptions are many,” says Caldwell.

Investigative Report

The Investigative report is a diary of what has been done, and wraps up the case from the investigator’s point of view.

It’s a chronological listing of each person interviewed and the topic discussed, with memorandum of interview attached, explains Caldwell.

“It’s almost an executive summary,” he says. “ It’s also where you tie it all together in your final paragraphs… where you’ve come to a conclusion, got a confession or found other good evidence… you tie the whole case together and make your recommendation.”

Case closed.


Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.