By Tony Paixao, CFI, CFE, Instructor/Consultant, Wicklander Zulawski

“To be successful, you need to be hungry. If you’re hungry, eat a ham sandwich”—Abe Lincoln.

Well, this quote may not be entirely real (and by entirely, I mean it’s completely made up), but people,-please don’t forget the need to stay hungry in this business. We see it all the time—those individuals who go into work, walk themselves through the motions of the monotony of their day, go home, rinse (hopefully) and repeat. They’re failing to challenge themselves to BECOME more. Never asking the question, “How can I contribute at a higher-level tomorrow than I did today?” No matter what your profession, those who make the conscious choice to stay intellectually stimulated through continuous learning, networking and immersing themselves in new and challenging projects—those are the individuals who rise to the top. This concept holds true in the world of interviewing and interrogating, the same as it does in business, education, IT, finance, etc. So how do we do it? If only there were a magical place where we could surround ourselves with like-minded, driven professionals in the world of interview/interrogation. What can we do to set ourselves apart from the masses as real subject matter experts in this field?


I give you, the International Association of Interviewers (IAI) and their elite Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI) designation. I firmly believe in three core elements to achieve personal and professional success: Credibility, Networking and Continuous Learning. All three are provided through IAI membership and the CFI designation.

Let’s explore further.

Credibility: The dictionary definition is simply, “the quality of being trusted and believed in.” To be viewed as a “credible” individual within this profession, you need have walked in the shoes of those who execute on a daily basis. You need to establish, through your words and actions, that you have an intimate understanding of the field in which you work, not just because you have read about it somewhere—but because you have LIVED it. Joining IAI provides you with an immersive opportunity to stay credible by affording you the ability to stay “in the know” on industry developments, legal updates and new techniques that are continually evolving to help you perform at the top of your game.

The paramount way to establish your credibility in this industry is through obtaining IAI’s CFI designation. Why does a designation translate into enhanced credibility? For the simple reason that it shows you have challenged yourself to learn industry-accepted practices to become a distinguished subject matter expert amongst your peers.

A CFI is entrusted to conduct an ethical and effective interview/interrogation. The certification carries with it an inherent aspect of credibility by the very nature of the process it takes to obtain and maintain it.

The CFI is the top of the totem pole and provides the professional who worked hard to earn this designation with enhanced credibility as an interviewer/interrogator.

Networking:  IAI membership provides you with the medium to network with other top-tier professionals in the industry. Whether through online portals, regional chapter meetings, or during the Elite Training Day seminar—there are a multitude of options for creating and nurturing professional relationships through IAI. Surrounding yourself with others who share the same drive for continuous improvement will have a lasting impact on your contribution to the field. I am always surprised by the number of people who fail to recognize the power of networking. Building bridges with others who share your passions creates endless opportunities for idea generation, professional movement, mentorship and so much more.

Continuous Learning: This may be the most significant advantage to both the IAI membership and the CFI designation. Both provide you with not only opportunities, but requirements to stay up to speed on industry standards. With the CFI, you will obtain continuing education credits to ensure you are staying relevant in the field. This shows not only your peers, but more importantly your current and prospective employer, that you are driven to stay connected with industry best practices and that you bring fresh perspective and insight to the ever-evolving competitive landscape.

Interviewing/interrogating is a PERISHABLE skillset.

Meaning, if you don’t continuously challenge yourself to use these skills and surround yourself with likeminded individuals who challenge your understanding and application, you will fall behind. The same way elite professional athletes, musicians, doctors, and actors never stop practicing their craft, the expectation is no different in this field. If you want to be great—you must do as the greats do: practice, practice, practice, practice.

“Whatever you are, be a good one”- Abe Lincoln (for real this time).

It’s such a simple statement, but it captures the core of my message—never stop working to be the best you can be in this industry. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you to become more. IAI provides you with a community filled with professionals where you can push yourself to learn more and network with others who will challenge your understanding and application of your current skillset. All the while, enhancing your credibility in this industry. If you’re considering going for the CFI—please don’t hesitate to reach out to speak with me about the process.

DISCLAIMER: If you’re going in with the intention to gain a few extra letters after your name—this isn’t for you.

If, however, you are looking for a way to challenge yourself and searching for an opportunity to set yourself apart from the masses—the CFI should be next on your professional bucket list. It’s our DUTY as professionals in this field to never settle. We are in a unique position where our actions have a direct and vast impact on the lives of others. Should we fail to recognize the gravity of this responsibility, we are doing not only ourselves, but also the organizations we represent, a gross disservice. More importantly, we are doing wrong by the people we interview and interrogate on a daily basis.

So, what’s your next step? Check out the IAI website at to learn more.

Too often people fail to make forward progress because they claim the path to get there is either too difficult or they just don’t have the means to make it happen. We want to remove both obstacles by providing you with all the resources necessary to get you to the next level.

Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Stay informed, stay engaged and make a positive impact.

We’ll be here to help you along the way.