Retail Interviews and Investigations

Interview and Investigations for the Retail Industry

 The retail industry deals with a lot of complaints. These voices of concern come from staff and customers alike and even sometimes from management. The nature of these complaints vary in nature and range from customer complaints of rude employees all the way to threatening behavior of fellow co-workers. Handling these complaints can be a bit delicate as some individuals might feel they are targets of the investigations while others might feel that their complaint was never attended to. While affirming to staff that their complaints are taken seriously and that the value they bring to the company is noted, the organization must actually take complaints seriously and value employees. Most Retail workers feel that the industry as a whole does not care about them. These feeling manifest with poor work performance and a disengaged employee. In addition many retail workers are not satisfied with the outcome of their complaints. According to a survey by an English law firm Foot Anstey “41% of retail workers who raised various work related complaints were dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigations on their complaints and felt that the employer could have done more to protect them.” 

Show You Care

It is important that business’ show their workers that they really care about them through actions rather than just words. This goes a long way in restoring their faith in the investigations, individuals are bound to open up better when they know you have their interest at heart making any investigation easier. They would also find it easier to make their complaints since they have faith in the system and believe that the system gives them a level playing field.

Types of workplace complaints

Harassment complaints:

Here are three types of workplace harassment, examples, and solutions to help you educate your employees for preventing workplace harassment.

  • Verbal/Written.
  • Attitudinal complaints:
  • Attitudinal problems are often associated with the attitudes and behavior of the staff. Could be rude or tactless staff.


Substance abuse:

Substance abuse can simply be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. "Substances" can include alcohol and other drugs (illegal or not) as well as some substances that are not drugs at all.


A statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.


Action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.


The willful and malicious destruction of an employer’s property or interference with his normal operations.


The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.

Safety and rule violation:

A safety violation refers to the violation of a particular workplace safety standard, regulation, policy, or rule. Safety violations include both the violation of safety policies created by an individual workplace and violations of the regulatory standards that are enforced within a given jurisdiction.


The action or crime of stealing.

Conducting Telephone interviews

We all know that the pandemic has changed the way things work and as such we have most staff members of an organization working from home.


How can one conduct a telephone interview? 

We are all currently observing the Covid 19 protocols and as such can’t have a physical meet up and as such the interview has to be conducted virtually. This is a major hurdle for an investigation. I know you are asking questions like, “how can I determine their body language, how to get them to open up, how to evaluate their behavior or how to even take records over the phone.” How do you expect someone to open up over a phone call, this would be a difficult feat to achieve but yes you can.

Some of the concepts you need to keep in mind:

Confidence is key to telephone interviews. Your confidence level should be felt through the speakers of the phone don’t shout.

Be informed: Try as much as possible to get all necessary information with regards to the issue you are currently investigating. This gives you a grasp of what to discuss.

Tone : It is also important to establish a particular tone with speaking with the witness, having a tone that says you are in charge, in control and have the necessary details gives you an edge in the course of the conversation

Listening: Pay close attention to the suspect when they are speaking. Being a good listener can help you read the suspects behavior. You can read suspects behavior through what they say and how they say it. We can’t monitor body language over the phone, but we can figure out when someone is being dishonest over the phone if we listen closely.

Engage the suspect: it is important to make sure that the suspect is listening to what we are saying and also understands the message we are passing. Using certain phrases like “do you get what am saying, are you understanding what is at stake, do you agree with this” and much more. This helps you find out if the suspect is following and also gets their current emotional state like if they are anxious, or if they are calm.

Conducting an investigative interview

Conducting a workplace investigation mostly involves interviews. You must interview everyone involved if you want to find out the actual truth. You have to listen to the statements of all parties involved. This can be a bit tricky as most times you find individual statements contradicting each other. You also have cases of individuals denying statements made and issues of some other individuals giving false information. Despite all this, it is important to get to the truth. How can one get to the truth in the midst of all this chaos? 

For you to arrive at a conclusion, you need to get as much credible information as possible to help you make the right call despite all the “he said, she said” scenarios.  The following are tips you can use to elicit as much credible information as possible to help guide you. These techniques help you sieve out all the unnecessary information that might taint your investigation

Keep an Open Mind

Keeping an open mind is key to having a successful investigation. We all have our personal bias and as such if we want to carry out an investigation, we need to keep an open mind that is devoid of our personal bias and assumptions. When conducting an investigation, it is very wrong to make an assumption when you don’t have all the credible information at your disposal. You may have taken a look at someone and feel, there is no way they could have carried out a particular act and as such you don’t pay much attention to them, or you take a look at another and instantly, you feel that he is your guy because he has a certain habit. Making assumptions would ruin your investigations and would taint the outcome of the investigation.

Open-Ended Questions are Key

The goal of every interview is to gather as much information as possible. Asking questions that suggest the answers is a total “No” in an interview as this would help guide the witness. Also, avoid Yes or No questions as this would make you be the only one talking which defeats the aim of having the witness giving out as much information as possible. Ask open-ended questions that would make the witness do much of the talking by trying to explain his position or his observation. Ask open questions with phrases such as ‘why they acted in, how it happened, why they said that, what they saw and so much more. This would keep them talking giving you the necessary information needed.

Ask Easy Questions at the Beginning

It is important to try and ease the tension and keep the witness at ease in order to get as much information as possible. Starting with difficult questions might make the witness withdraw into their shell making it much more difficult to get the necessary information required. When you start with soft questions, it helps calm the witness and as well creates a better rapport. You can start with basic questions such as name, store, current position, role, daily routine and much more. You get to study the body language of the witness while getting him ready for the major questions. By studying the witness body movement during the soft questions, you can easily when they react to a particular question this helps guide you on the credibility of their statements.


In the course of carrying out your investigation, you would start developing a theory of how the events unfolded. It is important to keep this thought to yourself alone and never share it with any of the witnesses. Sharing your opinion with a witness is bound to get them to be withdrawn for various reasons such as not wanting to contradict your account of events, another reason being that they might feel that you have reached a conclusion already and there is no need for them to say anything as your mind is already made up. They may also have the feeling that the investigation is a witch hunt or targeted at them. So, it’s best to keep your opinion on the account of things to yourself.

Facts Matter:

It is important to distinguish opinions from facts of the case when conducting an investigation. People tend to present their opinions as facts while some are good at presenting rumors' they heard as facts. It is paramount to fact check all information you get and try to filter facts from opinions. Getting the facts is very important as well as focusing on them.

Ask About contradictions:

In the interview always ask each and every one if they have any knowledge about others. Like what Mr. A was doing, or ask Mr A, about a statement Mr B made. Ask they have any idea what the other person meant.

Keep It confidential: It is very important to keep the details of your investigation confidential. Witnesses should only know facts that are relative to questions that are related to them. Keeping an investigation helps create decorum and limit panic in an organization.

Ask for feedback on additional information: Sometimes individuals find it difficult when they are placed on the spot. They might also remember some details they might have omitted during the interview due to tension. Always give room for them to contact you whenever they remember any details or want to give an omitted information.


By Douglas Ruhl

VP of Business Development

Strategic Security Corp