By Melissa Mitchell, CFI

When I got the notice for the Elite Training Day this year, I had to pause. My company currently has a travel freeze in place, so attending would mean doing so on my own dime. Like many of you, I have three kids who are just finishing up their college educations, so most of my dimes are already allocated!

It only took a second for me to make my decision. Based on every training event I have attended over the last 20+ years with W-Z, I realized that this is a long-term investment that always nets returns. Given that some of you may be in that decision making process right now, I thought I’d share my thoughts on why attendance is not optional, but rather a must.

We all hone our skills by doing interviews. I personally have learned something from every interview I have ever done. Sometimes I learned that I was on the right track in my approach and sometimes I learned that I had to pivot because I had started down the wrong path. In my very first year I learned that it was a rookie mistake to step out of the room and not take the written statement with me. My suspect ate page 1 before I got back in the room, with page 2 apparently on the dessert menu. (I couldn’t make this stuff up.) I went back and reviewed my training.

When I was working for a drug store chain in Michigan, I had the opportunity to interview pharmacists. In general, these individuals were convinced that they were the smartest people in the room. They had much more on the line in terms of investment in their education and potential removal from that career field going forward, which created the need for a different approach. I went back and reviewed my training.

When I came to LifeWay Christian Stores, I was met with a different challenge; what does interviewing look like in a faith based environment? Confession in this environment has a whole different meaning. When an employee confesses to a criminal act, they are also acknowledging to themselves that they have operated outside the tenants of their faith, and that is a very different hurdle to get over. I went back to my training, and re-worked my interviews to fit the unique culture I had walked in to.

When the CFI program came out, I must admit that, although I studied hard, I was thinking I could probably pass it simply based on the number of years of “on the job” training and the variety of environments I had interviewed in. I was wrong. If you have taken the CFI test you know it is not a walk in the park. Just the act of studying for and taking the exam re-acquainted me with some things I had forgotten and taught me a few things that were new.

What we do as interviewers has to evolve as the world around us evolves, whether that is due to the specific environment we are working in or the impact that emerging technology continues to have on the way we operate. The key is to have as many options as possible at your disposal in order to be able to quickly adapt to the changing landscape. Training expands the number of techniques you have in your tool box, which help you accomplish the mission. Being present at the training day with the caliber of individuals (both speakers and attendees) allows me to leverage their collective expertise to the advantage of my personal growth as well as to the benefit of my company.

I have never viewed the CFI designation itself as the “end game”, instead I looked at it as my entry pass into an elite group of individuals who are continually seeking to sharpen their skill set. My personal challenge to myself this year is:

• Not simply attend the Elite Training Day, but to contribute back to the association so that I am both a student and a teacher of my craft.
• Not just take the master class at Elite Training Day this year but also figuring out what I need to do to master interviewing in any environment.
• To remember that CFI stands for Certified Forensic Interviewer, but it represents Credibility, Knowledge, and Education which can only be maintained by constant pursuit.

See you in Florida.

Melissa Mitchell, CFI