University of Minnesota  Appendix

Best Practices for Conducting Interviews


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Please use the contact section in the governing policy.

Points to Remember

  • Acknowledge purpose: The interviewer’s job is to obtain information and remain neutral.
  • Assure fair treatment: Those accused of misconduct should be notified about the allegations as soon as the investigator concludes it will not risk the integrity of the investigation. Be sure to think through the investigative plan before contacting the subject.
  • Make no promises: Never promise anyone involved in the investigation anything.  For example, do not promise the subject of the investigation that, if they resign their position, the matter will not be escalated.
  • Confidentiality will be protected to the extent allowed by policy, regulation or law.
  • Findings are based on evidence: Findings are not based on what is believedto have happened.
  • Acknowledge historical working relationships: The report of wrongdoing often occurs in the context of a previous, difficult work relationship between the reporter and the subject. This may be pertinent to assessing credibility and motivation.
  • Use reframing and paraphrasing techniques: Using these strategies will clarify points and to ensure the matter has been captured accurately.
  • Consider professional and personal safety: When planning the interview, if conversations or other details lead to any concerns about personal safety, consult with the local police department to discuss options to ensure safety.
  • Practice sound listening skills: Keep in mind that investigations are intensely emotional experiences for both reporters and subjects.
  • Manage judgements: Personal bias and prejudices generally occur in the first few minutes. Be conscious of this tendency and manage to them.

Conducting Interviews

  1. Scheduling the interview/s:
    • Inquire in advance whether or not any of the parties will require accessibility accommodations.
    • Determine the times and dates that would work for the interview. Consider where the interview will be conducted and if scheduling extra time between interviews would manage potential overlap of interviewees meeting.
    • Determine the location of the interview. Does holding the meeting on the campus of the interviewee make it easier for the individual to attend? Would holding the interview on an off-campus site allow for greater anonymity and privacy?
    • Consider if the interview will be conducted in person, via web meeting or by phone. In person interviews and web meetings often elicit more complete details and the ability to observe non-verbal communication as well.
    • Consider using a standard set of questions for all interviewees who have knowledge on a particular allegation in the report. Additionally, consider how the allegations and/or investigation process may impact the content and order of those questions.
    • Consider whether or not the interviews display on the University’s calendaring system, when considering the confidentiality and privacy of the interviewees.
    • If the interviewee indicates that they are bringing an attorney, contact the Office of the General Counsel to ask how to proceed with the interview.
  2. Conduct the interview/s:
    • Generally describe the purpose for the interview, the issue that is being investigated, and that the interviewee may have information or is a potential witness to the issue. During this time, the interviewer will be collecting facts and not drawing conclusions.
    • Explain at the beginning that they are expected to tell the truth.
    • Share that the participant likely will not receive information about the investigation, the conclusions reached or action taken as a result of the investigation.
    • Ask prepared questions and identify new ones that emerge.
      • Create and ask open-ended questions
    • Ask for supporting information and documentation to support the basis of their knowledge.
    • Let them know that they may be contacted again to clarify information and/or provide further details about information related to the investigation.
    • Take diligent notes.
    • Summarize the key points back to the interviewee to confirm that the points are accurate.
    • Show appreciation to the interviewee for providing information and supporting the process.
    • Interviews are generally not tape recorded by either the interviewee or interviewer. Interviewers are under no obligation to allow recordings of the interview.
    • Typically plan to have three individuals present during each interview – the interviewee, the interviewer, and another individual to take detailed notes.
  3. Document the interview/s:
    • Review notes and summarize main themes. Note details such as time, date, length, location and others as deemed important.
    • If the interviewee acknowledges or admits to having taken a particular action, be as specific as possible as to what was admitted.
    • Dispose of any handwritten notes after the factual account is created. There should only be one official record of what happened in the interview.