GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR CONDUCTING INTERVIEWS
1. Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant’s experiences. The interviewer can pursue in-depth information around a topic. Interviews may be useful as follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires, e.g., to further investigate their responses. Usually open-ended questions are asked during interviews.
2. Before you start to design your interview questions and process, clearly articulate to yourself what problem or need is to be addressed using the information to be gathered by the interviews. This helps you keep clear focus on the intent of each question.
Preparation for Interview
3. Choose a setting with little distraction. Avoid loud lights or noises, ensure the interviewee is comfortable (you might ask them if they are), etc. Often, they may feel more comfortable at their own places of work or homes.
4. Explain the purpose of the interview.
5. Explain the format of the interview. Explain the type of interview you are conducting and its nature. If you want them to ask questions, specify if they’re to do so as they have them or wait until the end of the interview.
6. Indicate how long the interview usually takes.
7. Tell them how to get in touch with you later if they want to.
8. Ask them if they have any questions before you both get started with the interview.
9. Don’t count on your memory to recall their answers. Ask for permission to record the interview or bring along someone to take notes.
Sequence of Questions
10. Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible.
11. Before asking about controversial matters (such as feelings and conclusions), first ask about some facts. With this approach, respondents can more easily engage in the interview before warming up to more personal matters.
12. Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview to avoid long lists of fact-based questions, which tends to leave respondents disengaged.
13. Ask questions about the present before questions about the past or future. It’s usually easier for them to talk about the present and then work into the past or future.
14. The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview.
Carrying Out the Interview
15. Attempt to remain as neutral as possible. That is, don’t show strong emotional reactions to their responses. Act as if “you’ve heard it all before.”
16. Encourage responses with occasional nods of the head, “uh huh”s, etc.
17. Be careful about the appearance when note taking. That is, if you jump to take a note, it may appear as if you’re surprised or very pleased about an answer, which may influence answers to future questions.
18. Provide transition between major topics, e.g., “we’ve been talking about (some topic) and now I’d like to move on to (another topic).”
19. Don’t lose control of the interview. This can occur when respondents stray to another topic, take so long to answer a question that times begins to run out, or even begin asking questions to the interviewer.
Immediately After Interview
20. Make any notes on your written notes, e.g., to clarify any scratchings, ensure pages are numbered, fill out notes etc. Remember Confucius who had said – Small pencil better than long memory.