Investigators and clients often assume that in-person interviews are best. That’s been true for years, but times change. Teleconferencing is a powerful workplace and campus investigation tool that offers far more than a new way to save time and money.
Teleconferencing puts people at ease by allowing them to interview on their terms –in their office, their home, and on their schedule. No embarrassing visit to HR, Legal, the Admin building, or an outside law firm is required. There’s no chance of bumping into another party or witness. We recently calmed a nervous Title IX complainant by letting her sit under a favorite campus tree.
Teleconferenced interviews may even be viewed as more objective because they reduce the opportunities for casual sidebars and eavesdropping that can, in hindsight, seem unfair. Webcams make it easier to treat everyone consistently and show exactly how you’re doing it.
Sure, there are downsides. You can’t see a witness’s hands and feet, valuable deception flags. The upside? More relaxed witnesses are more forthcoming and more satisfied with the overall process.
4 Investigation tips for better teleconferenced interviews.
1. Plan ahead. Confirm the preferred interview format in advance with the client. In-person interviews are typical in C-suite Title VII sexual harassment investigations, but many investigations don’t benefit from that costly and slow “high touch” approach.
2. Be Consistent. Video for one, video for all. Mixing in-person and teleconferenced interviews in the same investigation invites suspicion and even bias claims down the road.
3. Go Hi Res. Easy-to-use webcams with outstanding video and sound quality are widely available for less than $100. Pros swear by them.
4. Take control. Before the video conference, instruct the witnesses to find a comfortable, secure, interruption-free location. When the conference begins, make sure both sides confirm explicitly that anyone within earshot is identified by name and is authorized to be there. Confirm the protocol for recording the interview by computer, phone, or any other device, reminding participants of relevant state wiretapping laws. During breaks, go offline or announce the need to mute the discussion on both ends to prevent embarrassing “hot mike” mistakes. At the conclusion of the interview, confirm again that no unidentified, unauthorized people have been privy to the discussion and that no deviations from the initial recording protocol have occurred.
Through its network of attorney investigators and project management technology, Aequitask delivers fair, fast, thoughtful, and thorough workplace and campus investigations on time and on budget. Learn how your organization or law firm can get an expert discrimination, harassment, Title VII, Title IX, fraud, conflict of interest, or other compliance investigation and a highly defensible final report within days or weeks and at a predictable fixed fee by visiting www.Aequitask.com or calling 1-800-554-1081.