12 Tips For Conducting an Interview
Conducting a successful interview (that is both interesting and productive) requires expert execution without consciously/unconsciously influencing your subject’s ideas.
Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of the conversation:
1. Be on time
Don’t be late or nor too early (esp. if you’re interviewing the subject at their home). If you need to set up recording equipment before starting the interview, make the appointment accordingly.
2. Introduce yourself
Start by introducing yourself and the college/company you represent. Tell the subject about your research and reiterate the reason why you want to interview them. If you are recording the interview, ask for their permission to record.
3. Establish rapport
Don’t jump straight into the questions. Begin with some casual conversation about their interests, their work, your own research etc. This would help both you and the subject to relax and get into the flow of the conversation.
4. Don’t follow the list
If you have a list of questions (which you probably will), don’t try to mechanically follow it. A good interview is a conversation not an interrogation, so don’t be afraid to drift away from your agenda. You will probably get much more information if you go with the flow and have fun. However, if the subjects starts rambling, you can gently bring them back to topic by saying something like ‘That’s great, and how about…’
Ask your question and then be quiet and listen. Give the subject time to think over the question. When they start speaking, you can nod your head and use occasional verbal nods like ‘um-hmm’ and ‘right’ but not to the point of distraction.
As the conversation progresses you can dig deeper for information by using probing questions like ‘Tell me more about that…’ or ‘How did you feel about that…’ etc.
7. Make notes, but sparingly
Make notes where necessary but don’t get too absorbed in the process because that can distract the subject. Instead, ask for the subject’s permission to record the interview (you should do this at the time of setting up the interview). See this post on how to choose the right voice recorder.
8. Ask a general question
At the end of the interview ask a general question like ‘Is there anything else you’d like to add?’ or ‘Is there anything else you can think of that’s important to this topic?’ This will give the subject to add bonus information that you may not have thought of asking about. It will also help you ease towards closure of the interview.
9. Stick to time lines
Finish the interview on time. If you’re remembered as a disciplined person who did not impose on the subject’s time, you’ll be welcomed back the next time you want to talk to them.
10. Say thank you
Close the interview by thanking the subject for sharing their experience with you. Give them your contact information and ask them to contact you if they think of something later that might be relevant to your research.
After the interview
11. Make notes
Sit down to make notes while the conversation is still fresh in your memory. Making notes from a recording is never quite the same.
Transcription is a great opportunity to re-listen to the interview. As you type, you will notice pieces of information you may have missed during the conversation, you may capture a change in tone as the subject talks about something they feel strongly about, or you may hear an unusually long pause indicating hesitation or emotion in the subject. The transcript will ultimately become a valuable resource for your write-up.