Preparation: produce an interview schedule and interview guides.
Execution: conduct the interviews
Review: write up the interview notes
Interview schedule Interview Interview guides Interview notes format Who you are going to interview, why, when and where? What questions are you going to ask?
What results were obtained?
An interview guide should be created prior to all interviews to ensure the interviews are focused and efficient and enable comparison and summarisation. Steps in the interview process Preparation Execution Review
Prepare additional notes if they assist. For example having an organisation chart helps in clarifying roles and responsibilities.
The interview guide enables standardisation of interviews for effective comparison and summarisation
Focused Many interviewees tend to go ‘off on tangents’ during interviews. Your interview guide should clearly state the boundaries for your interview. These should be stated generally at the beginning with more specific instructions to refocus when appropriate. Quantifiable Open questions tend to produce long answers that are difficult to quantify and compare. If you need measured responses ask the interviewee to assign a value to their answer so direct comparisons to be made. For example How reliable is the current system, what score would you give it out of ten? Complete Check that the guide addresses all the objectives of the interview and have a colleague review it. Guidelines for structuring an interview
Interview execution Interviews are exceptionally rich sources of information. However, no two interviewees are alike: some tend to ramble, others are suspicious and curt, some will need only the slightest encouragement to speak their minds, while others will have to be guided along. The interviewer’s job is to conduct the interview to gather the information required, which takes skill, practice and structure. Once you have concluded your interviews, they must be summarised to yield the ‘big picture’. Your questions should therefore allow for valid comparison and summarisation of your interviewee’s viewpoints.
Your interview needs to balance the building of rapport and collecting of required information.
Gain rapport first. Explain the context, set the tone, and make the interviewee feel at ease. The introduction serves to:
Gauge the interviewee’s style, expectations and concerns
Confirm the timeframe
Sequence the interview items
Items should be ordered by importance and sensitivity. The more sensitive your interviewee, the more important it is to avoid an ‘inquisitorial’ interview tone. A non-threatening format for interviews involves the careful arrangement of interview topics:
Examples: “ How does that happen?” “ How did that change impact your department?” “ What specifically do they do as a result of that?” Probe questioning is honing in on a particular area of interest and drilling down to obtain more detail. It includes asking for more information to clarify a vague phrase or statement made by the interviewee such as ‘quite high’ or ‘often late’. Probe questioning needs to be balanced with open and closed questioning to avoid the interview seeming like an interrogation.
Paraphrasing is a technique used to confirm or clarify something the interviewee has said or implied. There are three levels of paraphrasing:
The first level confirms or clarifies expressed thoughts and feelings, for example: “so there are three factors that determine the present situation”
The second confirms implied thoughts or feelings, for example: “so you would really like to change this situation”
The third surfaces core thoughts or feelings, for example: “you are afraid that it might make things worse for you” or “so you think the strategy is wrong” (Note that with paraphrasing of feelings you can trigger a strong emotional response particularly with this third option )
Interview notes are valuable when sharing information with other team members.
Write interview notes as soon as possible after the interview
Outline key findings, note emerging hypotheses
Consider how findings fit with earlier evidence
Identify gaps to be filled in subsequent interviews
Key Steps Interview Notes Interviewees: Interviewers: Location: Date: KEY FINDINGS BACKGROUND AND SITUATION DISCUSSION NOTES NEXT STEPS Format Interview review A standard interview note format is useful in orienting interviews to results: