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Serendipity in interviews

CFEs discuss interviewing, part 2 of 2

In part one, experienced CFEs described how preparation and flexibility are the keys to good interviews. Here they discuss how they can discover surprising new evidence by asking incisive questions and waiting for serendipitous moments. We also cover question typology, body language, moving toward admissions and more.

ACFE Regent Alexis C. Bell, M.S., CFE, PI, once was in Brussels, Belgium, to investigate a 175,000 euros procurement case. “While I was wrapping up a two-hour, information-seeking interview with an employee, I said, ‘I’m here to help you. Management is paying very close attention to this case. If there is anything else you want me to convey to them, now would be the time to say something. I can’t guarantee they will address the issue, but I can certainly try. Perhaps there is something you’d like to tell me? Is there anything that bothers you or keeps you up at night?’ Then I sat back and waited,” Bell says.

“He leaned forward in his chair and said, ‘You know, there is this one thing that I’ve been trying to get someone to pay attention to for almost 20 years, but no one is listening. …’

“That open-ended question at the close of an interview for a small investigation detected a 300 million euros case,” Bell says. “Now, I always close every interview with the question: ‘Is there anything else you want to tell me?’ ”

Bell knows that thorough preparation is integral for a successful interview. An interview is a formal question-and-answer session designed to elicit information. The ACFE says that it differs from an ordinary conversation in that the interview is structured — not free-form — and is designed for a purpose.

However, experienced interviewers also know that they can discover surprising new evidence by asking incisive questions and waiting for serendipitous moments.

Fraud Magazine recently informally surveyed several experienced CFEs to gather their views and methods of that important component of fraud examinations: interviewing.

In part 1 in the May/June issue, we covered pre-interview preparations, lists of subjects to interview, interview space, devising questions and establishing rapport. Here we’ll review question typology, questions in action, mixing it up for results, body language, subjects’ deception, moving toward admissions and learning experiences.

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