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Careful preparation is always the best way to ensure a good result when interviewing witnesses. However, situations often dictate a “cold interview” in which no advance preparation is possible. In such instances, the ability to think on one’s feet can make the difference between a slammed door and a meaningful discussion.

The most important factor in the success of the cold interview is a good first impression. The interviewer’s demeanor will often dictate the response. A friendly, professional appearance and approach is essential. A sincere smile from someone projecting competence can go a long way toward putting a person at ease, thereby breaking down the barrier to acceptance.

An added key is the ability to establish rapport quickly. Connecting with a stranger is no easy task; however, finding an area of common interest can be an instrumental stage in gaining one’s confidence. Something as simple as commenting favorably about a car, a particular breed of dog, or a sports team logo can lead the interviewee to let down their guard. As the interview progresses, the skilled investigator will also guide the elements of the dialogue that can solidify the bond that has been established.

Another fundamental component is a respectful, empathetic attitude. Making the person feel as though they count, and their story is valuable and logical, often keeps them talking. Looking down on someone or demonstrating disapproval or disbelief can lead to a quick end to the conversation. Even if the interviewee has admitted to wrongdoing, the impromptu interview is no time to judge or cast aspersions.

Finally, once the person has opened up it is critical for the interviewer to make eye contact and listen. Don’t interrupt or cut off answers, and do not spend too much time writing things down. Jotting a date or recording the spelling of a name is fine (especially if you happen to be recording the conversation), but making copious notes can intimidate or offend. It can also interrupt your train of thought and cause you to overlook follow-on questions.

The cold interview is among the most challenging tasks of the investigative process. But properly conducted, it also frequently among the most rewarding and productive. Many cases have been resolved through information from someone who opened the door to a complete stranger who was able to gain their cooperation

The seasoned investigators of ResultQuest have successfully conducted hundreds of cold interviews. Call us at 713-781-9040 when your case demands skilled interviewers.