Failing the Interview


To my knowledge, John Farnam coined the term “Failing the Interview.” It is an acknowledgement that the victimization process has two parties, the criminal and the potential victim. Criminals rarely attack victims by doing a ‘Tueller Drill.’ With very rare exceptions, criminal usage of what is commonly called the Tueller Drill is almost exclusively confined to ‘Breaking out of encirclement’ when confronted by the POlice.

Even the most inexperienced criminal knows that proper victim selection is paramount to continued success in criminal endeavors. Poor victim selection, especially in environments where potential victims may be armed, can lead to incarceration at the least and even being shot to death by the victim.

Rather than an abrupt approach, criminals observe a potential victim and decide whether they have or can gain a significant advantage over the victim. It is the first step of Boyd’s Process from the viewpoint of a criminal predator.

This can occur either as an Ambush or during a Movement to Contact, i.e., a hunting expedition. If they feel they can gain an advantage, the victimization process begins. If the criminal doesn’t feel they can gain an advantage, i.e., a GO condition, then they wait or search for another potential victim. This victimization decision process is “The Interview.” It usually takes place without the knowledge of the potential victim, although at times it will be an actual verbal interview.

What I’m looking for, Claude, is big ole bag of money.

A polished and experienced armed robber or extortionist to me on one occasion.

“Failing the interview” is the result of the potential victim’s portrayal of self as being someone who will be difficult to gain an advantage over or who will be uncooperative with the victimization process.

Well, what I’ve got is a bunch of empty tool bags.

My reply to the criminal.

I was tempted to say “I get off work at 10 p.m. Meet me in the parking lot and we’ll get this over with today” but I decided to avoid getting The Last Word In. For both of us, this was merely a rehearsal rather than an actual incident. Criminals practice dry repetitions of their repertoires just like we do.

What is the process to Fail the Interview? The first step to set ourselves up for success in this regard is to be aware of our surroundings. Both we and criminals have an Area of Interest and an Area of Influence.

Joint Publication 3-0 Joint Operations

We want the criminal to make a NO GO decision on us while we are still in his Area of Interest and before we reach his Area of Influence. The NO GO decision is the absence of a GO decision. The default for criminals is NO GO because criminals know there are plenty of two-legged cheeseburgers walking around and the next one will be along in just a minute or two.

The second step is to portray ourselves as someone who is aware of and will not cooperate with the victimization process. Although the term ‘victim blaming’ is has been in vogue for some years, that concept is often an excuse for ignorant or foolish behavior. When someone gets badly sunburned, we don’t blame the Sun, we ask why the person spent so much time in the Sun without adequate sunscreen.

As my colleague Brian Hill points out, walking around with one’s face buried in a cell phone places a person in a posture of submission. Whether the person is actually submissive or not, that posture sets the tone for the victimization process to begin. Blithely talking on a cell phone in transitional spaces is another key indicator to a criminal that the potential victim is not paying attention to their surroundings. This is a way of setting one’s self up for predation. Being aware of our surroundings is a passive way of defeating the predator’s intent.

There are also active ways of Failing the Interview. The easiest is to openly indicate an intent to be uncooperative. Changing direction, displaying positive body language, or simply saying NO are non-violent ways of signaling an uncooperative attitude. They fall into the areas of Escape and Confront in the Avoid, Escape, Confront, Resist paradigm.

The list of ways to Fail, or Not Fail, the interview is extensive. The first step of all of them is to recognize that The Interview exists and make conscious and continuous efforts to Fail it. If we are effective at Failing the Interview, we won’t have to escalate to the Resist step of A-E-C-R. Preempting the need to go to active Resistance is our best bet for avoiding a Negative Outcome, either during the encounter or afterward.

In every encounter, there is an element of chance.

John Hall, former Head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Purchase of any book includes Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make.

STOPP Presentation at Rangemaster Tactical Conference

3 responses

  1. Absolutely Excellent!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  2. If things get bad enough, criminals will start employing larger numbers to mitigate resistance. In other words, instead of one or two guys approaching you, four or five will “interview” you and, gun or no gun, resistance will be difficult for you. They will trade getting a smaller share of the loot for safety (theirs).

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