With Interviews and Real Estate, It’s Location, Location, Location

Choosing the right venue for investigation interviews

Posted by Meric Craig Bloch in on September 9th, 2015

Choose a good interview location because of its effect on the witness and, consequently, on the information he gives you.  A witness who fears that his co-workers may hear what he says or see him speaking to you will not give you all the information you might otherwise gather if he believed he could speak freely. A witness who feels very comfortable and protected in his statements is likely to share more with you than even he intended. Once people start speaking comfortably, their natural protective defenses begin to drop. A good investigator senses these changes and probes deeper for more-valuable information.

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Forget Stereotypes

It makes for good theater, but intimidating settings make people less likely to share information.
The location of the interview should be a neutral place that is conducive to effective information-gathering and protects the fairness of the process. Forget the stereotype of the bare room, single chair and spotlight. It makes for good theater, but intimidating settings make people less likely to share information. An intimidated witness is more likely to lie or evade probing questions because of a general fear of you and the investigation process. Pressure tactics frequently backfire, undermine your integrity and credibility, and might even lead to an ethics claim against you.

Pressure tactics are also intellectually lazy. The reality is that the more comfortable people are, the more they open up to you.  The interview locations should therefore be a relatively benign environment, and the witness should be physically free to get up and leave at any time. The room should be at normal temperature and should be free of distractions. The key is to make an informed choice for the best interview spot possible. Each venue has its advantages and disadvantages. These change depending on the allegation, the business need to display to others that a workplace investigation is being conducted, and the particular witness you are interviewing.

Public Places

An off-site location might be chosen if there is any concern about a disruption in the workplace as a result of confronting the witness.
Interviews in restaurants or other public places pose distractions and risks to confidentiality. However, their advantage is that these venues can put a witness at ease because of its public, non-worksite nature. An off-site location might also be chosen if there is any concern about a disruption in the workplace as a result of confronting the witness. This is especially relevant when interrogating the implicated person.

Sometimes you will have multiple options for an interview location (like when you conduct them at the office) and sometimes you won’t (like when the interview must be taken at an airport because it’s the only time a witness is available). The key is to make an informed choice of venue while appreciating that every location affects the dynamics of the interview.


Meric Craig Bloch
Meric Craig Bloch

Principal, Winter Compliance LLC

Meric Craig Bloch is the Principal of Winter Compliance LLC, a consulting practice helping organizations create effective internal investigations programs through investigation process design, investigator training, and investigations management. He has designed, implemented and managed the workplace-investigations processes for multinational Fortune 500 companies, trained thousands of HR and compliance professionals to conduct investigations and has conducted more than 400 internal investigations of fraud and serious workplace misconduct in the US and internationally.

Meric is an attorney, a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional – Fellow, a Certified Fraud Examiner, a Professional Certified Investigator and has written two books on investigations as well as chapters in industry publications. He is on the faculty of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’ Basic Compliance and Ethics Academy.

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