How to turn an interview into something meaningful?

There are many different types of interviews conducted every day; job and university, celebrity and sports personalities, police and legal interviews. Although each of these has different requirements for what the information gathered is going to be used for, each is using same underlying technique which is to ask lots of questions to gather as much information as possible.

But there is so much more that can be done to ensure that you are getting the best possible quality answers from the interviewee.

This blog post explores the most useful techniques that can be adopted to turn questions and answers into a meaningful conversation.

Our Techniques

  • Use Open-ended Questions – You want to get as much information as possible from the candidate, so avoid yes or no questions “Are you thirsty?” For example as the answer is either going to be “Yes” or “No”. Open-ended questions will elicit longer answers and ensure that the interviewee gives you examples and details, for example: “What else do we need to do to make this a success?”
  • Try not to anticipate answers – There is nothing worse than be interrupted mid conversation or having your sentences finished. Let the interviewee speak and have their opportunity to explain everything for you.
  • Funnel Questions – This involves using general questions, and then homing in on a point in each answer. This is a common technique used by the police when taking a statement. For example: “How many people were involved in the robbery?”
    “About four.”
    “Were they children or adults?”
    “Mostly adults.”
    “What sort of ages were they?”
    “About twenty-one and thirty.”
    “Were they carrying any weapons or tools?”
    “Yes, several of them had crow bars and hammers.”

By continuing with the funnel technique you can help the interviewee  re-live the scenario and focus on the detail that is needed.

  •  Listen slowly – This can help you illicit more information from the interviewee, without having to ask any further questions. Try this technique
    • Ask a question
    • Listen attentively
    • Count to five once they have finished talking before asking the next question. Yes this may feel unnatural at first, but it might illicit additional information and an expansion of the answer from the interviewee.
    • Tip: Pick a few questions that give the interviewee room for introspection, the pause will then give the interviewee the space to fill it with an additional example or a more detailed explanation.

These interview techniques can be applied to any interview situation and will give you even more food for thought.

Your note taking is just as important as the techniques you apply, after all you want to be able to capture and save as much information as possible for you to look back on at a later date. This is where audio recording can help as it will capture everything at source.

At Fingertips Typing Services we offer audio transcription services If you have an interview and feel you would benefit from transcription services, then Fingertips Typing can help. Visit Fingertips Typing Services.

Written by: Cerri Killworth, Transcriber for Fingertips Typing Services.

Transcription and Police Interviews

History

It is believed that police cautions were first used in the early 1800s.[1]

By the 1920s, police began to give drivers  written warnings for motoring offences. The Home Office, in 1928, published statistics on cautions. [2]

From 1995 cautions were recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC), and it was recommended that cautions should be retained for 5 years, though each police force could follow its own guidelines. [1]

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced the concept of statutory Conditional Cautions.[1]

In 2008 a Home Office circular made clear suspects must receive a written explanation of the implications before accepting a caution, to meet the informed consent obligation, and provided a new form to be signed by the offender which explained in considerable detail the consequences. [1]

TV/Movie Police Cautions

It’s a serious situation when an individual is being cautioned, as they are most likely getting arrested and charged with a crime.

However, the process is not always dramatic or exciting, so when TV series and movies are made, everything tends to be a bit more over the top

Remember these:

“Book’em, Danno” – Hawaii 5-0

“Get your trousers on – you’re nicked!” – The Sweeney

Do you remember any catchphrases of TV/movie cops? Let us know in the comments section below.

Police Caution in Interview

You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence, if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.

This version of the police caution has been used from the inception of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984.

The caution prior to that was “you do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but what you say may be given in evidence.”

Around the world, police cautions differ in language but follow the same format.

In the US, it is called Miranda warning, but also known as Miranda rights and is a right to silence. [3]

You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

In Australia, the caution differs slightly from state to state:

New South Wales – You are not obliged to say or do anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you say or do may be used in evidence. Do you understand?

Queensland – Before I ask you any questions I must tell you that you have the right to remain silent. This means you do not have to say anything, answer any question or make any statement unless you wish to do so. However, if you do say something or make a statement, it may later be used as evidence. Do you understand?

In New Zealand, the caution follows the same lines:

You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to make any statement. Anything you say will be recorded and may be given in evidence in court. You have the right to speak with a lawyer without delay and in private before deciding to answer any questions. Police have a list of lawyers you may speak to for free.

These examples of police cautions were taken from Wikipedia – click here for more examples from around the world.

PACE

In 1984, the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act came into being, with the purpose of regulating police powers and protecting pubic rights.[4]

Additional codes of practice have been published and updated since 1984 to provide specific guidance around :

  • Code C from May 2014 – Requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects not related to terrorism in police custody.
  • Code E, first published in January 2016 – Audio recording of interviews with suspects in the police station.

Code C lays out when cautions should be given, the terms of the caution as well as specifics around the cautioning of juveniles and the mentally vulnerable. It also gives guidance on general interviews, those in police stations and interviews of juveniles and the mentally vulnerable.

Code E explains how audio recordings should be conducted at each stage of the interview.

Evidence and Its Uses

Evidence that has been recorded enables the prosecutor to make a decision informed by what was said at interview.

It is also entered as an exhibit to the officer’s statement, and may be used in the same way as physical evidence.

Should the recording be entered and accepted into evidence, it will be used for the conduct of the case, when it has been accepted by the defence.

There is no requirement to prepare a record of the interview if the person who was questioned about and/or charged with an offence nor when the person stays silent or only says ‘no comment’ throughout the interview.

Transcription of Evidence

If the recorded interview is accepted as evidence, it can be played or transcribed.[5] Should there be a need for the interview to be transcribed, there are guidelines that should be followed, outlined in PACE Code E Note 5A. [6]

5A Any written record of an audibly recorded interview should be made in accordance with national guidelines approved by the Secretary of State, and with regard to the advice contained in the Manual of Guidance for the preparation, processing and submission of prosecution files.

Fingertips Typing Services can transcribe your police interviews.

Written by: Debbie Rowe, Transcriber for Fingertips Typing Services.

Visit Fingertips Typing Services.

Resources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_caution
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/250902/crimestats.pdf
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_warning
  4. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/police-and-criminal-evidence-act-1984-pace-codes-of-practice
  5. http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/tape_recorded_interviews/
  6. https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/criminal/docs/crim-practice-directions-V-evidence-2014.pdf