The frequency of online interviews for workplace investigations has rapidly increased in recent years, a change that can be attributed to both the natural progression of workplace digitalisation and the Covid-19 pandemic. As more investigators and employees find themselves working from home more frequently, it has become increasingly important for employers to have processes and strategies in place to ensure that the quality of investigations is not compromised when aspects of them are conducted remotely.

Face-to-face communication is no longer a given standard during the investigative process and interviewers have to be able to ensure they can gather accurate, helpful information through alternative means. Online interviews are a common substitute when in-person interviews are not possible, however, this does not mean that investigators should treat or approach them in the same manner.

Tips for conducting online interviews

1. Be familiar with the technology

When it comes to online communication, your organisation will have its preference for the online platform or video conferencing tools they utilise (i.e. Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, Skype etc.).  Whatever the given tool, it’s necessary to make sure that you are familiar with using it and know how to cater it specifically towards the purpose of an investigative interview. Arranging a test call can be helpful in this regard, especially if you haven’t used a certain platform before or have limited experience with it. 

You should also ensure that each participant is familiar with navigating the chosen platform- if any individual is not acquainted with it, the investigative team can offer guidance on the appropriate resources and methods to learn how to operate it. Before you start with the questions, make sure that both parties can see and hear each other clearly so any problems can be resolved and the interview proceeds smoothly and undisrupted.  

2. Interviewing environment

The interviewing space setup is crucial as it sets the tone for the conversation and ensures confidentiality, especially when sensitive information is being discussed. In virtual conversations, it’s essential for all participants to have a private, noise-free space. To avoid interruptions, investigators should inform interviewees to select a suitable location in advance. Despite preparations, online interviews are prone to disruptions like connectivity issues and background noise. To minimize their impact, it’s best to test the equipment, allocate buffer time, and have a backup connection ready.

3. Build rapport

Building rapport during any investigative interview is inherently challenging as employees can often feel anxious, afraid or uncertain about the process. Online interviews make rapport-building even harder, especially when talking to individuals you have not interacted with before. Making time for small talk is a useful tip to keep in mind as it eases the employee into the conversation and helps make them feel more comfortable talking openly and honestly about their experiences.

However, it is important to remember to maintain appropriate workplace boundaries throughout the interview. Striking a balance between creating a comfortable environment and displaying professional conduct is essential to ensure that the interview is fruitful and efficient.

4. Documenting the interview

Recording interviews is an essential component of workplace investigations since it safeguards the authenticity and dependability of the discussion, particularly when making significant decisions regarding the next course of action. Prior to conducting the interview, the employee must be notified about the recording and why it is necessary. When conducting online interviews, utilising the record feature of meeting applications has become a prevalent technique for interview documentation.

However, it is vital to ensure that the application your organisation uses adheres to privacy and security regulations to avoid compromising confidentiality. Additionally, taking notes can serve as a backup option for online interviews in case of recording issues such as technical problems, transcription errors, file corruption, etc. To achieve the most comprehensive notes, it may be beneficial to have another person present, allowing one person to concentrate entirely on the conversation while the other takes detailed notes.

Advantages of an online interview

Whilst online interviews pose unique challenges, they are not without their benefits as well. Some of these include:

  1. Convenience: Virtual interviews offer convenience and flexibility to both interviewers and interviewees. They can be conducted from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating the need for travel and allowing for more scheduling flexibility. This is especially useful for candidates who live far away or for interviewers located in different cities or countries.
  2. Lower costs: Online interviews can save companies money by reducing travel expenses, venue rentals, and administrative costs associated with in-person interviews. They also provide a more efficient and affordable option for workplace investigations.
  3. Documentation: Recording online interviews is simple with the built-in feature in most platforms, eliminating the need for external devices or transcription services. Digital files are easy to store and share, making them beneficial for remote workforces and multi-investigator reviews.
  4. Comfort levels: Remote interviews allow participants to choose a comfortable and secure location, reducing anxiety and stress and leading to more accurate and detailed information. This is especially useful for sensitive topics or when participants may feel intimidated during in-person interviews.
online interviews

The increase in online workplace investigation interviews due to remote work and digitalization offers convenience and flexibility but also comes with challenges like the inability to read body language and technical issues. However, with preparation and consideration for these challenges, investigators can still conduct effective investigations and gather accurate information through alternative means.

Polonious offers video interviewing capabilities through our integration with Simple2Connect, a remote meeting platform that allows you to easily organise video interviews from within Polonious and have interviewees join on mobile phones, laptops, tablets, or whichever device they feel most comfortable on. If an interview is recorded, it is automatically loaded into Polonious upon completion, where it will be stored with the ISO27001-certified security that our customers know and trust us for.