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Investigator Interview

30 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns
Updated November 24th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Protective Services    

Question 1 of 30

In three words, how would you best describe your investigative style?

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In three words, how would you best describe your investigative style?

The interviewer would like to tap into your style when it comes to investigative thinking. They want to know more about how you approach and understand your work. When the hiring authority can understand your investigative style, they will also be able to determine better if your style is a fit for their existing teams.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I am driven by challenges, and describe my investigative style as focused, methodical, and also creative. I can think outside of the box to see a full picture of the job, the crime, the victim, and the criminal. I like to develop information and entertain various scenarios."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I would describe my investigative style as purposeful, organized, and systematic. I was trained in, and follow, the five C's, which are collecting, checking, considering, connecting, and constructing. Following this framework allows me to remain well organized and focused as I grow in my investigative career. With that said, I am open and willing to learn other methodologies and approaches. I look forward to learning more as I grow with your organization."


How do you react when the outcome of a case is discouraging?

We all experience disappointment and setbacks in life. What separates us is how we react in situations where we feel let down. Give the interviewer an example of a time when the outcome of your case was discouraging. Talk about how you felt, the way you reacted, and what you learned from the situation. If you are new to your career as a Criminal Investigator, you can give an example from an internship or your post-secondary studies.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"Last year I worked on a very complicated investigation surrounding drug trafficking and money laundering. Due to politics out of our control, my unit did not see our desired outcome. Rather than feel angry and internalize the situation, I chose not to allow the outcome to impact my perceived value as an Investigator. I mustn't allow ego to get in the way of my growth. I am strong enough to handle failures and receive them as opportunities for growth."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Being new to my career as a Criminal Investigator, I suspect that the first disappointing outcome will be the hardest to handle. Today, as a student, I receive grades lower than I would like at times and choose to take them as growth opportunities. I have learned that I feel discouraged when my expectations do not properly align with reality. To avoid overreacting in a situation where I am disappointed, I ask myself whether or not my expectations are realistic. If needed, I will adjust these expectations, learn what I need to, and move on with confidence."


What qualities should a good Criminal Investigator possess?

There are a plethora of skills a Criminal Investigator should possess to be successful in the workplace. For starters, an Investigator should be an exceptional communicator, able to problem solve, and think critically. An Investigator should have a strong knowledge of the law so that they can address questions and issues from multiple angles. Talk to the interviewer about the qualities you feel are most important, and be sure to outline the fact that you possess these yourself.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I believe the top qualities for a Criminal Investigator to possess include organization, a strong sense of self, high levels of integrity, and confidence. I have further developed these skills over my years as an Investigator, and continue to build upon them every day."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"In addition to high levels of honesty and ethics, I believe that a Criminal Investigator should have the ability to control their emotions completely. Investigators often face issues that are difficult to absorb as people are victimized, and details are challenging to hear. I have developed the ability to remain empathetic and to control feelings of anger that may arise when hearing of these types of situations. I know as my experience grows, so will my capacity to control my emotions."


Tell me about your most challenging criminal investigation.

The interviewer would like to get an idea of the types and levels of investigations you have been a part of in your career. If you have some years of experience, this question will be simple for you to answer. Be prepared to give an overview of the situation, what the most significant challenges were, and how you overcame this in the end. If you are new to your career, speak about what you believe will be the most significant challenge ahead of you. Be prepared to discuss how you plan to overcome the situation.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"The biggest challenge I have come across lately was one involving international cybercrimes. Although technology is fast-changing, and making our lives easier in many ways, as an Investigator - there can be a lot of red tape with it comes to digital evidence. In this particular case, I had to adhere to different constitutional protections related to evidence from digital devices. In the end, I was able to collect the information needed; however, the process took much longer than I initially anticipated."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Being new to my criminal investigation career, I suspect that I will come across many challenges in my first few years, and I am ready to meet these challenges with hard work and enthusiasm. The biggest challenges that I expect to face this year include learning the related systems and various communication tech tools. These tools will help me to do my job better and faster, so I aim to have this as a significant focus of learning right away. With the growth of IoT and the challenges with virtual evidence, I expect to face roadblocks when it comes to the collection, inventory, and use of digital evidence. I will keep up with these challenges by reading and learning more about the internet of things, cybercrime, and best practices in unconventional criminal investigations."


Are you able to work with minimal supervision?

The interviewer wants to hear that you are capable of working independently while following directions and instructions carefully. It's essential to strike a healthy balance when answering this question - a balance between being independent yet still able to collaborate well with others. Talk about the autonomy you have in your current role, and how well you do working on your own. Be sure to mention how you get along with your team, and what you do to ensure smooth collaboration.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"In my current role, I work with minimal supervision. I perform my documentation and research independently, and then I collaborate with my team when it comes to some strategize on a case, or lining up interviews. I am receptive to feedback and take direction well, making me a strong candidate for roles that offer minimal supervision."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"As a student, much of what I do is based on independent learning, studying, and research. I have managed to get my assignments in on time and follow a dedicated study schedule, all while working part-time. I can be trusted to deliver my work promptly and work efficiently in the absence of supervision. With that said, I do welcome teamwork, collaboration, and feedback on my performance."


How perceptive are you?

To be perceptive means that you are observant, good at solving problems, and figuring out solutions. Often, you see factors that other people miss or notice details that other people typically overlook. Talk to the interviewer about a time when your perceptiveness was a considerable benefit to a problem or situation.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have a strong sense of perception and am often the person to notice an error or oversight before anyone else. What I have done in the past is taught myself to be an extra-keen listener. I ask open-ended questions and make sure that every conversation I am a part of is one that brings value to an investigation. I also look for may verbal and non-verbal cues, primarily when questioning a person, which often leads to insights that my colleagues may not pick up on."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I like to get an accurate read on people and situations by first being a quiet observer. I will ask questions with purpose and listen intently for discrepancies or gaps of information in a response. There is always more to learn, and I look forward to gaining more tips and tricks in perception, as I grow in my investigative career."


Think about a difficult superior or fellow investigator. How did you successfully interact with this person?

In your field of work, you will come across many people with different characteristics. You must show the interviewer that you can successfully interact with people who may have challenging personalities. Think about that one person at work who is tough to please. Perhaps there is someone at work who tries to intimidate others. Or maybe they are not a team player. Give a specific example, if possible, highlighting how you turned the situation around and made it work. The industry can be tight-knit so, stay classy and avoid speaking poorly of anyone. Be sure to end your response on a positive note.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"One of the most difficult people I've worked with was a supervisor when I was a new Investigator. She was notoriously difficult on the newbies, but I took this on as a challenge. I gave myself incremental goals along the way, small checkpoints gaining even the smallest amount of positive reinforcement from her. I made it a fun challenge for myself. Ultimately, I did win her over, and she is someone I consider a mentor even today."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I have been exposed to a variety of personalities during my university career. I am a warm person by nature and have found it challenging to connect with those professors who were 'matter of fact' and a bit standoffish. My former Criminology prof was this way, so I adapted by sticking solely to the facts when giving answers and presenting data versus opinions. It wasn't the most profound relationship that I built during my time in post-secondary, but I did learn some valuable communication lessons."


What would your coworkers say about your attention to detail?

Attention to detail is incredibly crucial for a Criminal Investigator, especially when it comes time to keeping accurate records, writing extensive reports, and maintaining case files used in court. Give your response, and then support your reply with a real-life example. Talk to the interviewer about your level of attentiveness when it comes to the smaller details.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have a well-honed ability to point out discrepancies in my work, and catch most anything before it reaches the desk of a coworker or my superior. Being an Investigator for several years, I have had the opportunity to streamline many processes, which I believe saves me time and ensures I do not need to rush my work. I believe my coworkers would say that my attention to detail is impeccable. In fact, they often come to me when their work needs a second set of eyes."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I have been working on a lot on my attention to detail this past year of university. I am meticulous but, in the past, have pushed assignments and papers back a little too far, resulting in careless mistakes. Time management is something that I have been working diligently to improve. I submitted near-perfect work in my latest group project, something my fellow students were pleased to benefit from."


For you, what is the most rewarding and motivating part of being a Criminal Investigator?

The hiring authority would like to know the source of your motivation and job satisfaction. On the toughest days as a Criminal Investigator, what drives you? Be sure to show a lot of enthusiasm for your work when you answer this question. If you are new to your career, be ready to discuss what you believe will be your biggest positive drivers.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"The most rewarding aspect of being a Criminal Investigator, for me, is the involvement in bettering the lives of my community by identifying culprits of crime. Also, continuous learning is very motivating. Lately, I have been learning a great deal about cybercrime investigation and prevention. There is always more to learn as the world advances in terms of technology."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"While gaining my degree in Criminal Justice, I have come across a plethora of fascinating case studies. I have learned skills and investigative methods that I am very eager to apply. I believe the most rewarding part of being a Criminal Investigator is knowing I am doing my part to keep my family and my community as safe as possible."


Do you have formal training in interrogations?

As a Criminal Investigator, you may be required to perform, participate in, or even lead investigations. Whether you have on the job experience, formal training, or are new to the industry, the interviewer wants to hear that you are able and willing to learn what you need to perform an investigation successfully.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I took a couple of classes including Interview & Interrogation when I was completing my Criminal Justice degree. These courses taught me helpful basics. Over the years, I have further mastered different interrogation techniques, including cognitive interviews, leading and loaded questions, and kinesic interviews. I am very confident in my interviewing skills; however, I am always open to deeper learning."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I recently completed my Level I and Level II Interview & Interrogation courses. There was a great deal of focus on PEACE, which is Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure, and Evaluate. This form of interrogation is prevalent in the UK and highly effective because it makes the examination feel like more of an interview. The purpose is to ask many questions and get the suspect to talk for a long time, eventually becoming friendly and encouraging a confession. Although I have primarily practiced the PEACE method, I am very open to gaining more knowledge in methods such as cognitive investigations and kinesic interviews."


Tell me about your post-secondary education, and how it relates to your career as a Criminal Investigator.

Take a few moments to bring your education to life for the interviewer. Whether you have many years of experience or are a recent graduate, your knowledge in investigations should be one of the keys to your career success. Talk about the coursework you took, where you excelled, what was most interesting for you, and how it all ties into your career as a Criminal Investigator.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have a degree in Criminal Justice from ABC University with a major in Corrections. Although I completed this education many years ago, it is the foundation for my success as a seasoned Investigator. Some of my coursework included Correctional Administration and Documentation, Criminal Law, Juvenile Justice, and Theories of Crime Causation. Since graduating, I have taken additional coursework in Interrogations, Cybercrime, and Digital Evidence Collection."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am a recent graduate of the Criminal Justice program at XYZ University, with a focus in Criminal Investigations. These courses helped me immensely when it comes to my knowledge of collecting, recording, and analyzing evidence. Some of my favorite classes include Investigations Practice, Crime Scenes, and Forensics & Evidence. Because of my formal post-secondary education, I walked into my internship with the utmost confidence. I feel well prepared to begin my career and am enthusiastic about expanding upon these building blocks."


How do you handle the stress and pressure of being a Criminal Investigator?

Many stresses come from being a Criminal Investigator. The interviewer wants to hear that you have healthy coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with the high amounts of pressure that comes from working in the law enforcement industry. Discuss how you can thrive, even during the most stressful times. You can keep your answer brief. If you can, provide an example of a time when you implemented a stress-management technique in your current role.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I am highly resilient to stress and believe this is because of my twelve years of experience within high-pressure investigative environments. Under times of extreme stress, I make sure to keep myself in check by identifying the core of what is causing me the stress. I will work to break down that specific situation and then move onto other priorities. It also helps to talk to other investigators, and be open about my feelings if I'm experiencing overwhelm."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I have experienced high-stress levels many times while obtaining my degree. These times of stress might be when I have a full exam schedule or multiple deadlines to meet. To keep myself grounded, I stay well-rested and put an importance on self-care. I read books and try to limit unnecessary screen time, such as scrolling through social media."


What is your weakest characteristic, and what are you doing to improve?

You must be honest in this case; however, you will want to choose a weakness that is not a core need for the interviewing company. Be prepared to recognize that you aren't great at everything. Choose a fault that you can begin to improve immediately. What the interviewer will also be looking for is that you have an action plan in place for improving on this weakness. Maybe you listen to podcasts, read books, and actively learn new methodologies for improving on this shortcoming. We are all human with our flaws, so don't be afraid to share yours!

Rachelle's Answer #1

"My weakness comes in task delegation. I know what needs doing in a successful investigation, and how I want it done, so it's often easier to do it myself. However, it can inhibit my ability to grow, as well as the abilities of those around me. I am currently reading 'The Art of Delegation.' This book has given me ideas on how to grow the responsibilities of those around me. Already, I find my propensity to hold onto control has decreased, so I'm certainly moving in the right direction."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"My supervisor recently provided me with the feedback that I need to spend less time concerning myself with policy, and more time trusting that I am making the right decision, for an investigation and my team. I believe this is a common weakness of investigators who are newer to their careers. I have been working to improve this by reading more case studies and breaking down what the outcome was. I believe the more I know, the more I will learn to trust my knowledge base, and problem-solving process."


When an investigation suffers a setback, what is your initial reaction?

Criminal Investigators must get used to suffering setbacks in their careers, as cases do not always go as planned. New evidence can railroad a theory, people you rely on for testimony can prove untrustworthy, and more. The interviewer would like to know how you react when it comes to setbacks in a case. Everyone handles led-downs differently, so be clear with the interviewer how you typically cope with these types of situations. Talk about your initial reaction and the steps that you take to bounce back.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"As a Criminal Investigator, I must remain cool on the job. There have been instances where I put my heart into a case. Then, a factor outside of my control derails my progress. If this happens, I allow myself a moment to be frustrated, but always in private. I must remain professional and quickly recover so that I can remain focused on what I can control."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I can only imagine the frustration of seeing a case suffer, after putting so much heart into the details. I believe it's important for an investigator to remain collected so I would take a minute to digest the information, and then reassess my approach or strategy. In my personal life, I try to treat setbacks as lessons, so I would take what I could from the situation to learn and improve."


What is the worst thing a previous supervisor could say about you?

Nobody is perfect, so it's okay to answer this question with some transparency. Think about some mistakes you have made at work or any suggestions for improvement received. If a supervisor were to provide you with feedback or criticism, what might they say? Keep your answer brief, and be sure to discuss your willingness to improve and take constructive feedback. You want the conversation to remain positive, so avoid discussing any characteristics that would make you ineligible for the job, or raise red flags for the interviewer.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"The most critical thing a supervisor has said to me is my need to slow down and stop chomping at the bit for the next big thing. I always have my eyes on the prize for the next position to move up the ranks. I know it's great to be goal-oriented and driven, but I also needed someone to tell me to slow down and truly learn all of the foundational tasks and strategies as a Criminal Investigator. Today, while I am always planning for the future, I am more focused on building a strong foundation for my career."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Last semester, a professor told me I needed to thicken up my skin when it comes to mistakes occurring on projects. Occasionally, setbacks can dampen my mood. I know that I need to work on taking setbacks in stride. I have already improved on this feedback by telling myself to find the lesson in the situation, and then moving forward to a solution right away."

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30 Investigator Interview Questions
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Interview Questions

  1. In three words, how would you best describe your investigative style?
  2. How do you react when the outcome of a case is discouraging?
  3. What qualities should a good Criminal Investigator possess?
  4. Tell me about your most challenging criminal investigation.
  5. Are you able to work with minimal supervision?
  6. How perceptive are you?
  7. Think about a difficult superior or fellow investigator. How did you successfully interact with this person?
  8. What would your coworkers say about your attention to detail?
  9. For you, what is the most rewarding and motivating part of being a Criminal Investigator?
  10. Do you have formal training in interrogations?
  11. Tell me about your post-secondary education, and how it relates to your career as a Criminal Investigator.
  12. How do you handle the stress and pressure of being a Criminal Investigator?
  13. What is your weakest characteristic, and what are you doing to improve?
  14. When an investigation suffers a setback, what is your initial reaction?
  15. What is the worst thing a previous supervisor could say about you?
  16. What methods do you deploy in order to properly read people and behavioral indicators?
  17. How will you build rapport with your fellow investigators?
  18. How do you withstand the ethical dilemmas associated with this unique type of work?
  19. Are you able to communicate with people from all walks of life?
  20. Are you a trustworthy person?
  21. Do you consider yourself a leader?
  22. Tell me about a time when you made a tough ethical decision.
  23. As a Criminal Investigator, clear documentation and reporting is critical. How are your written communication skills?
  24. What do you find to be the most difficult part of being a Criminal Investigator?
  25. How do you react to an increase in your investigative workload?
  26. What do you know about our community and the criminal activity present here?
  27. What are your long-term career goals as a Criminal Investigator?
  28. What makes you a stand-out Criminal Investigator?
  29. Why did you choose to become a Criminal Investigator?
  30. What are the core responsibilities of a Criminal Investigator?
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