Subject won't talk? Use these techniques


By Don Rabon

Inside the Interview

Recently I was instructing a group of auditors from an organization at its professional retreat. During my session on interviewing, the counsel for this group asked an excellent question: "What can you do when the person you are interviewing just doesn't want to talk with you - when their answers are short and not to the point?" It was such a good question that I'm using it as the central theme for this column. 

WHY SOMEONE ISN'T COOPERATING 

The first thing we need to keep in mind is that there's a reason a person isn't participating at the communication level we want. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Subjects' motivations for not communicating vary widely. On one hand, an interview subject might not be a nice person but he hasn't committed a wrongful act and has no guilty knowledge. At the other extreme, an interview subject has committed a wrongful deed and feels that the more he communicates the more vulnerable he becomes.

In the middle of these two extremes is the subject who has done nothing wrong but suspects that someone he knows may be involved in wrongful behavior. This subject is on the horns of a dilemma. He doesn't want to get the individual into trouble if he hasn't done anything wrong, but he doesn't want the situation to spiral downward because of his allegiance to the organization. A confused mind tends to shift toward "no"; that's probably the main reason in the opening case that the interview subject didn't cooperate with the legal counsel. Regardless of the subject's motivation for not cooperating, the interviewer's challenge is the same: determine the motivation and eliminate it.


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