A Newbie’s Journey Through the CFI Prep Course and Certification…Join Me, Won’t You?

Hello again, friends and welcome first timers!  Last time we left off I was at the starting line of this crazy thing called the Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI) Certification Exam.  Don’t remember what that is, or you’re new here and thought this blog was actually about running? Let’s take it back to my first post for a quick reintroduction of my spot on definition of a CFI: “expert interviewer and interrogator, top of the line investigator, someone you should strive to be, someone you should strive to hire, and someone who has attained an overall bad-assery level in our industry.” Enough said.

As you may be able to imagine, it has been a complete and utter whirlwind for me these past two months. I had two marathons in one month (Chicago & New York City), a very vigorous onboarding process which required some hard lifestyle changes (read: I haven’t seen my dog in over nine, I repeat NINE weeks ya’ll), and a LOT to learn from some very impressive and unintentionally intimidating industry leaders.  You know, just a casual day in the office, or in a giant metal bird 35,000 feet in the air…

[insert humblebrag here]

In between preparing for presentations, training for marathons, traveling all over this great nation, and all the other “life happens” moments that popped up when I least wanted them to, I had to fit in some serious study time for the CFI exam.  As I mentioned in my last post, I “chose” to prepare by utilizing the online self-study module.  The online module is very user-friendly and convenient for those of us who are unable to dedicate an entire two days to the exam prep seminar.  That being said, if you are anything like me (i.e. multifaceted learner, OCD, perfectionist, etc.) I think a combination of the online and in-person prep course would be beneficial. That way you could review the online course, identify areas you feel you need to improve upon, and then attend the seminar where you can pepper Mr. Hoover with any specific follow-up questions you may have.

If you are not able to work the two-day exam prep course in, I promise you’ll survive.  The online prep contains anything and everything you’ll need to know in order to crush the exam.  What neither the online course nor the two-day prep course will be able to help you with is your own dedication to learning the material covered by the exam.  Whenever you train for a race of any kind, especially a marathon, you’ll always hear one simple phrase – trust your training.  The same applies here:  the tools and resources are available to you, via the prep course.  As long as you’ve put in the adequate amount of effort to really learn and understand the information provided, you’ll do just fine on the exam.

Pictured: Not me. But shout out to Oprah for the spot on quote!
(Running = Studying, obviously)

Now to the nitty-gritty: my run down of the online prep course.  As you may know by now, the online prep course has a total of 15 segments, each covering vital information relevant to the exam and real life.  Before we even dive into the training segments, we have to complete a pre-test, which gives you a benchmark of your comprehension of the material and the exam.  Despite being in this industry professionally for over 10 years and my higher education being geared towards this environment (ya’ll can look me up on LinkedIn later), I scored a whopping 69%.  Room for improvement?  Obviously.  But guess what?  It’s a PRE-test people.  It’s kind of like getting a physical before you start a new physical endeavor – you want to know where you stand and what your areas for improvement are before you jumpstart your training. Good thing I like a challenge, have a strong desire to learn, and I don’t have a problem sharing that score if it makes any of you feel even the slightest bit more confident with your ability to take this exam!

Honestly, though… I thought I nailed it.

After the pre-test you can move through the 15 segments in any order you’d like.  For our purposes here, I’m going to go in order and start with the first segment: Preparation & Interview Setting.  This segment is pretty straight forward, but still a good refresher no matter how long you have been in the business.  It also contained many points that I haven’t actually thought of before.  For example, I have never been with an organization where I had the opportunity to do general loss investigations (i.e. interview an entire group of people who potentially were involved in a theft, with only circumstantial evidence that a theft had occurred).  Therefore, I have always followed an ambush method of interviewing and interrogating.  However, this chapter distinctly identifies the best course of action for scheduling interviews and interrogations depending upon the crime (i.e. crime vs. person or crime vs. property).  In total, I spent approximately an hour and a half studying this segment and completing chapter review questions, while I was visiting my mom and had her and my little sister asking me random questions and trying to include me in their conversation while they cooked dinner, despite my obvious disinterest in them.  (Seriously – I had headphones in and lost track of how many times I told them I was studying…apparently, that doesn’t have the same effect on my mom at my ripe ole age of 32, as it did when I was 16. Go figure.)

The second segment, Legal Aspects, is notably one of the longest segments in the online prep course, for good reason.  I’m sure many of you who have attended a WZ training have heard us stress how important it is to know the rules to the game you’re playing, and that is exactly what this segment is all about.  This segment breaks down the difference between the Private and Public sectors, as well as highlights some of the responsibilities unique to each.  It also delves into applicable Constitutional Amendments, case law, and provides clear-cut definitions for the aforementioned (and more) that some of us were either not aware of or have not been updated on in quite some time.  This is also a great update/review for those who are transitioning from one sector to the other.  Although most of this segment was a review for me, it took around an hour and 45 minutes for me to get through in the same environment I described above.  I spent another half hour going through the practice questions a couple times and re-reading sections related to questions I missed.

Don’t worry, I had some quasi-traumatic flashbacks to my law classes too…

Segment three covers False Confessions: a topic that has arguably become much more prevalent in the mainstream media recently, specifically since Netflix’s well-known documentary series, Making a Murderer, was aired.  A coworker of mine mentioned when I first started that his Google Alerts would send him 2-3 emails a week regarding False Confessions. However, after the series aired, his alerts increased exponentially and on a daily versus weekly basis.  While this may not be a new phenomenon to those in our field, the increased public interest and pressure does highlight the already obvious importance of ensuring an investigator is not just obtaining a confession, rather the truth.  Of note in this section for me was the definition of the three categories of false confessions – voluntary, coerced compliant, and coerced internalized.  The segment breaks down False Confessions into two types: The Absence of Truth and The Distortion of Truth.  It also identifies who may be more susceptible to making false confessions and the reasons why someone may make a false confession.  Overall, a segment worth dedicating individual attention to – which is what I did… by locking myself in my bedroom for an hour.

THAT is a lot of information and the stopping point for my overview of the online prep course review for now.  For my fellow runners, the completion of the pre-test and the first three segments above puts us at what I’ve deemed our 5K mark (3.1 miles for you nonrunners out there J).  Hopefully, between the starting line (my last blog) and this mile marker, ya’ll are getting a good understanding of what to expect with the online prep course.  The CFI Exam may seem as daunting as a marathon – but I promise, with the right preparation, it is a very real and attainable goal!  Until next time, happy training!

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
~Arthur Ashe~

Shout out to the 2016 MLB World Series Champs – Chicago Cubs! [POV: NYC Marathon 2016].