Inside the Interview

Should we record the interview?

By Don Rabon

To record or not record? That's the controversial question many of my colleagues are asking about interviewing. It's the subject of a well-intended and spirited debate. But I think that recording interviews is a concept whose time has come. 

For better or worse, we as a society have reached a point when it's not necessary for the defense to prove that something improper was performed during an interview. Now, often the defense has only to raise the specter of the possibility that inappropriate steps were taken within the "communication event." That inappropriate behavior can range from the complaint that there were two interviewers and only one interviewee so the subject felt intimidated, to the allegation that the admission was coerced. Consequently, we have to be prepared to defend the interview itself in a growing number of cases. What better way to prepare for that possible need to show that the questions asked and the information presented were all within the gold standard of acceptable procedures than to be ready to present the interview itself as its own defense?

I understand the concerns of many: "It will give away our techniques or strategies; some approaches don't look or sound good on tape; it will give the defense something to go after, etc." But interview techniques and strategies are like plays in professional football - everyone pretty much has access to the same game plans and plays. It isn't so much who has the most plays as who can best execute the plays that they all have. Secondly, during the interview - recorded or not - I'm not going to do or say anything that I'm not ready for all to see or hear. My tenets include not doing anything that would cause someone to make an admission to something that they haven't done or taking away the "voluntariness" of the admission. Lastly, any good defense is going to target something therefore I'd rather take away their option for going after the specter of "what's behind the curtain?" with the implication that the interviewer acted inappropriately.

I believe that in time, in this visual "I want to see it" society, the recorded interview will do for fraud investigations what videotaping the drunk driver in the booking room has done for convictions for driving under the influence.

Because recording the interview is currently becoming more prevalent in the public sector, I'm going to limit my comments in this column to its application within the private sector.

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