Post-Interview Comments: a Rich Source of Information for Investigators

Don’t end your investigation interview before it’s really over

Posted by John Hoda in on January 23rd, 2017

Years ago, when I was an insurance fraud investigator, I began to notice something odd. At the conclusion of an interview, I would turn off my tape recorder, eject the tape, close my notepad and stuff my papers into my briefcase. I made a show that the interview was over. Then I would linger, quietly waiting. Sure enough, the insured would break the silence and begin talking about what was on their mind.

Learn more about conducting effective investigation interviews. Download the free cheat sheet: Top 20 Questions to Ask in an Investigation Interview.

Over the years, I observed this phenomenon hold true for victims, suspects, and witnesses in other types of investigation. It might be a hint to what they were withholding. It might deal with their feelings about the event or about the interview. Most times, they would talk about the event less guardedly. Usually, I began to hear a theme develop of how they viewed their role in the event.

Door-Knobbing

This is the time to mindfully observe what the subject says or does.
In an out-patient treatment setting, psychologists call this phenomena “door-knobbing”. The patient talks for 50 minutes, dances around their issues and waits until the end of the session, when their hand is on the doorknob, to reveal something startling. Outside of the therapeutic setting, very little is said about door-knobbing. I am surprised to see very little in the investigative interviewing community on this subject. From my experience with this rich source of information flowing after the interview, it’s one of the most important phases of the encounter.

I teach investigators to wait and listen to what the subject wants to say at that stage of the meeting. I teach them not to hurry out the door or not to be preoccupied with their files. This is the time to mindfully observe what the subject says or does.

The gold nuggets that I have mined during these post-interview comments, as I have named them, are incredible. Sometimes, I would exclaim their importance and ask permission to turn the recorder back on or I would write supplementals on the signed statements where the ink had barely dried on their signatures.

Fill in the Blanks

Let the subject be the first person to break the post-interview silence.
We know that everyone self-edits when they tell a story. When you hear post-interview comments, you begin to understand the person’s editing process. Many times, a person who wasn’t asked about something important in the inquiry, will volunteer their knowledge at this time. A colleague suggested that the last question of an interview should be “Is there anything that I have not asked you about?”

How many times during the post interview comments and banter do I hear things that are hugely important? Being freed up of question formation and sequencing allows me to listen better while the person is more relaxed and still willing to talk.

The post-interview comment phase of the interview is exactly that. It is a phase in the interview process.  When you realize this, you will begin to hear what the person is really thinking or what they really want to talk about. Let the subject be the first person to break the post-interview silence. You’ll be surprised by what you hear. Really!


John Hoda
John Hoda

Certified Fraud Examiner

John Hoda is a police-trained former insurance company fraud investigator with decades of experience as a private investigator. He is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and a Certified Legal Investigator and an expert in the art and science of interviewing. He’s the creator of The Ultimate Guide to Taking Statements: Digital Edition and he blogs on Interviewing strategy at The Department of What Happened.

Visit Website