data interviews

How to Build a Better Interview
(Hint: It’s in the Data)

We all know the value of a solid investigation when the time comes to sit down with a subject. It can do wonders to boost your confidence level when you have thought through every possible explanation and excuse.  It’s sort of like studying for finals— sure you probably know the information, but giving yourself the insurance of going over the materials again gives you a mental edge.

In the rush to get the associate in the seat, I’ll be the first to admit that I have taken shortcuts and skipped steps in the investigative process.  Among my many reasons for doing so: they may quit if I wait too long; I‘m sure I can get an admission; there’s pressure to close the case; there’s my own impatience, etc.  Am I alone here?  But with all the investigative tools available to us, we are doing a disservice to our companies if we rush to close.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying drag it out over the next few weeks or months because we have one more day of video to review or one more report to run. The investigation needs to be thorough but expeditious. Get what you need and move on. As you move towards closure, what you might need are rationalizations and possible motives. Why not use Exception Based Reporting (EBR) for this and let it do more for you than simply identify fraudulent transactions?

The next time you are putting together your game plan and considering which tactics and rationalizations to use during the interview, think about taking one more spin through your EBR system. When you first built your investigation you were looking for fraud patterns; now look at it from the perspective of the interviewer. What could be in the data that might help you build a rationalization?

Shopping Patterns

Run a query on all the subject’s purchases. Do you see a lot of kid’s clothes, formula, diapers, etc.?  How about a rationalization involving financial pressures and how hard it is to make ends meet?  Are there purchases of trendy items like iPhone accessories, electronics or jewelry?  This could be a good time to use peer pressure or an impulse rationalization.  For example, in an investigation I conducted a few years ago, the subject I was researching was a young female, 18 years of age, who lived at home and was going to college.  I knew from speaking to her managers that she didn’t have any children yet.  But when I looked at her purchases, I noticed she had bought a pretty significant amount of infant’s items.  Her method of theft was refund fraud and merchandise theft.  Based on the data from her employee purchase query, I made an educated guess that she was stealing to provide for her family or a friend, and from there I developed a peer pressure rationalization.  It turned out she was stealing for her boyfriend who had an infant and the rationalization worked perfectly.

Theft Patterns

Run a query against the managers’ schedules to see who was on duty when the thefts occurred.  If a pattern emerges, you may be able to put together a theory on opportunity and operational breakdowns, which can be validated during the interview.  For the upcoming interview, you may be able to craft a rationalization which places blame on poor management or unfair management practices.  There might be another reason why your subject is stealing while a particular manager is working – collusion!  Prepare to talk about peer pressure in this interview too.

Payment Methods

Again, using the employee purchase query, take a look at all the different credit cards the subject uses.  Multiple cards could indicate some financial pressure.  This could also indicate they are using another individual’s card and giving out their discount, which is more icing on the cake but also a source of possible rationalizations (such as peer pressure).

Investigation Efficiency

While we earn our keep by closing the case, discerning the truth and providing a clean termination, we also add value through development of the admission and obtaining implications.  Let’s face it – investigations can be fun but also time consuming and costly. If we do a better job up front using EBR to help us develop the admission and implications we can cut costs and losses for our company.


Look at fraudulent activity patterns to mine for possible collusion.  As mentioned earlier, the manager on duty who has signed every fake refund may very well be involved.  Don’t forget to ask about this during your interview, as an assumptive question, with a follow-up question!

Take a Wider Look

Don’t be afraid to use the data to delve into any possible area of theft.  Maybe you have some fishy no-sales or post-voids but no video to back them up.  It never hurts to plow the whole field in an interview! Go ahead and try to develop these areas.

Use the EBR Data as a Wedge

The subject will minimize – after all, that’s their job while they are in the seat opposite you.  Referencing the investigation can help you build credibility and reestablish your confidence if you have received some denials.  It’s always a great safety net to have that ace up your sleeve. Just knowing it’s there can help you make it through some tough moments in an interview.

Use every weapon you have in your arsenal to build the investigation and then close it out to its fullest.  One of the great things about using EBR is that the technology has advanced far enough that investigations can be wrapped up quicker, more thoroughly and without all the legwork of the past.  Does anyone besides me remember rolling up journal tapes?  No more!  And really, no more guesswork in developing rationalizations, possible themes for implications or development.  It’s all right there in the data.  You just have to look.


Stefanie is a regular contributor to the work of the International Association of Interviewers. To enjoy other great content from her and other contributors, please visit