Blog · February 29, 2020

How to Conduct an Investigation Step By Step

The most effective resolution to a complaint or a legally indicting situation is conducting an investigation. The investigation scrutinizes every aspect of a story until you unveil the truth.

Before you start, ensure you have a clear plan for how you would conduct the investigation to avoid making unnecessary mistakes. Investigations are aimed at revealing the truth, but this can only be achieved if they’re conducted correctly

The following is a guide on how to conduct an investigation step by step.

Step #1: Establish a plan for the investigation

The first step on how to conduct an investigation is to come up with a detailed plan. Develop a witness list and interview questions as you plan the investigation and add more throughout the investigation based on the evidence and information you receive. Your questions should be relevant and open-ended to make it easier to draw out as many facts as possible. Design them in such a way that they don’t lead or influence the interviewee.

The best time to conduct an investigation is shortly after you observe an issue. Quickly resolving an issue gives everyone peace of mind. Any information that could be treated as evidence should be presented for the investigation. Once you establish a suitable timeframe for the inquiry, state the importance of investigating and resolving the issue as quickly as possible.

This ensures that interviewees are available when they’re needed and that they will be inclined to cooperate. However, if you experience unexpected delays, you can extend the deadline to ensure a complete investigation.

Step #2: Select an private investigator

You should consider several factors before assigning an investigator to a case. They should be able to investigate without bias. They should also have no personal relationship with the individuals involved.

A private investigator should also have some experience in the field and an eye for detail. They should have strong interpersonal skills to build rapport with the involved individuals. Since their conclusions will be used to make a decision, they should be respectable people who can act as credible witnesses.

Step #3: Divide the private investigator’s duties

When you conduct an investigation, there are various tasks to be accomplished. Forming an investigative team reduces the workload and increases efficiency. A significant part of any investigation is the interviews. Having two witnesses with the same recollection of an event makes it difficult for the plaintiff to challenge the credibility of your inquiry.

Asking intelligent questions can be difficult. Listening to the answers closely, formulating follow-up questions, and taking notes as you conduct the interview make this process easier.

Alternatively, you could have two interviewers. As one questions the respondent, the other can take down notes and ask follow-up questions. Ensure their duties remain the same during the entire interview process. As a result of this division of duties, the investigation can be concluded faster, and the results will be more accurate.

Step #4: Ensure confidentiality of the investigation

In any investigation, ensuring confidentiality to the best of your ability is essential. While conducting an investigation, it might be challenging to keep the information gathered in the initial complaint completely confidential. The investigator should explain to each individual that information, such as that gleaned from the initial interviews and records, will be kept confidential. However, confidentiality should not apply to the extent that it hinders a thorough investigation.

Some of the confidential information may be revealed to potential witnesses and the accused. For this reason, absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. However, it should be assured that the information will only be shared on a need-to-know basis.

Step #5: Minimize witness intimidation

In most investigations, witnesses might feel intimidated to give an account of the events of an investigation. This sometimes happens if the alleged wrongdoer is present in the place the interview is being conducted. The person in question might even harass, intimidate, or retaliate against a witness in an attempt to influence the investigation’s outcome.

It’s wise to remove an alleged wrongdoer from the room of the investigation. This increases the chance of getting as much honest information as possible from a witness. If such an investigation is happening at the workplace, and you feel the necessity to remove an employee from the workplace to avoid witness intimidation, it’s advisable to involve HR in the matter. Consult with your need-to-know group to get a consensus before taking such an action.

Step #6: Conduct Interviews

Interviews are one of the most important steps when you conduct an investigation. Interviews identify inconsistencies, evidence or potential witnesses from the accounts given by different witnesses. You can ask the witnesses to write down their accounts of what happened. This might result in a disparity between what the witnesses say during the interview and what they are willing to write down.

Avoid using tactics that may make the interviewee feel like they are being coerced to give information. This way, you will minimize the chances of a false confession and, consequently, a misleading judgment.

Establish witness credibility by identifying witnesses who are personally involved in the issue. Their perception of the events might depend on their personal interests, meaning they’ll give you false information.

Other factors that may help assess the credibility of a witness are motive to falsify, past behaviour, inherent plausibility, corroboration, demeanour, and past accusations. Also, during the interviews, be objective and impartial to avoid pushing the investigation in a particular direction. You will be better placed to gather relevant facts by adopting this strategy. Once the interviews are over, assess and evaluate the information and evidence you have collected.