Pros and Cons of Telephone vs In-Person Interviews
Two years ago, all national security background investigations that required an applicant or source interview were done in-person by a background investigator. Only in extreme circumstances (e.g., deployed, geographically challenging to be cost effective, or hospitalization) were telephonic or video interviews allowed. Fast forward to March 2020, now most interviews are getting done via telephone or video chat. This, of course, is much more efficient than having an investigator hop into his car and drive miles to some location to do the interview, then drive back home and write up the report. The investigators also have more time to do more interviews. More interviews in less time means getting the investigation closed faster. Sounds like a good thing, right?
The flip side to this is the human factor. Some would argue that an in-person interview is much better to flesh out potential issues or to coax additional information out of an applicant or source. It is easier to be evasive and deceitful when you are not sitting in front of an investigator who is looking at your eyes, listening to your tone of voice, observing any nervous twitches, and maybe keying in on other micro facial expressions. Also, some interviewees may feel less intimidated of the authority of the background investigator and thus be less inclined to cooperate or volunteer information.
I have talked to a few active background investigators about this to get their take on the whole phone/video versus in-person interview and got mixed results. However, more than not said they enjoy not having windshield time and the hassle of getting into facilities and are generally more productive working from home. Some do acknowledge that a few applicants try to pull the “I don’t have to answer your questions” routine, but when told by the investigator its no skin off their back; they will just send the report in exactly like it is with issues unresolved then the applicant becomes more cooperative. If you want to chime in your thoughts on this go to the blog site and look for this topic.