Preparation for Interview

  1. 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.
  2. Explain the purpose of the interview.
  3. Address terms of confidentiality. Note any terms of confidentiality. (Be careful here. Rarely can you absolutely promise anything. Courts may get access to information, in certain circumstances.) Explain who will get access to their answers and how their answers will be analyzed. If their comments are to be used as quotes, get their written permission to do so.
  4. 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.
  5. Indicate how long the interview usually takes.
  6. Tell them how to get in touch with you later if they want to.
  7. Ask them if they have any questions before you both get started with the interview.
  8. Don't count on your memory to recall their answers. Ask for permission to record the interview or bring along someone to take notes.
  9. An interview should really be between 30 to 45 minutes. Keep the interview to 7-8 questions that are not just yes and no answers. The questions help the person to reflect on their decisions or life. 
  10.  If the candidate is very chatty simply find an opportunity (an opening in his/her conversation or at the possible conclusion of a story), and say "Very good. Thank you." and then ask the next question.
  11. Be OK with silence. If you ask a question and the candidate is struggling with answers, let them. Sit tight and wait. We all tend to want to move on because silence is uncomfortable. As an interviewer, you need to get used to that.
  12. Try to let the candidate talk instead of you talking too much, unless they ask you specific questions. Too many interviewers talk too much about what their organization is like, what the challenges are, and they even go off topic and start talking about their dogs and such. Building rapport with your candidate during the interview is unnecessary. Act with authority. Do not try to be-friend your candidate.
  1. Start with an open-ended question. An open-ended question cannot be answered by "yes" or "no" and it usually does not have right or wrong answers. It is a good way to put the candidate at ease, allow them to freely sell themselves for the job. It is also a good way for you to find out some basic qualifications of the candidate, and to get some cues as to what to ask next.
  2. Validate the candidate's claims. Does he/she really know what he/she is talking about? For instance, if candidate said "I lived in Africa for three years and was principal in the school system. You could ask "Could you tell me some of the key activities you were engaged in when you were principal?"    Make sure that your question is phrased very clearly so the candidate must provide details.
  3. Try to draw out specifics:  Ask questions like How Long, when, where etc.
  4. Here are some examples of open-ended questions: 

                               a) "Please tell me a bit about your experience while on Safari in Africa." 

                               b) "What is the most rewarding job you've had and why?"         

                                c) "Why do you think you qualify for this job?"                         

                                d) Now think! Pop quiz: Is this an open-ended question "Have you done digital

                                     editing before?" 

                               The answer is "no". Because the question can be answered by saying "yes" or "no".


Types of Topics in Questions

Patton notes six kinds of questions. One can ask questions about:
  1. Behaviors - about what a person has done or is doing
  2. Opinions/values - about what a person thinks about a topic
  3. Feelings - note that respondents sometimes respond with "I think ..." so be careful to note that you're looking for feelings
  4. Knowledge - to get facts about a topic
  5. Sensory - about what people have seen, touched, heard, tasted or smelled
  6. Background/demographics - standard background questions, such as age, education, et

Sequence of Questions

  1. Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible.
  2. 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.
  3. Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview to avoid long lists of fact-based questions, which tends to leave respondents disengaged.
  4. 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.
  5. The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview.

Wording of Questions

  1. Wording should be open-ended. Respondents should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions.
  2. Questions should be as neutral as possible. Avoid wording that might influence answers, e.g., evocative, judgmental wording.
  3. Questions should be asked one at a time.
  4. Questions should be worded clearly. This includes knowing any terms particular to the program or the respondents' culture.
  5. Be careful asking "why" questions. This type of question infers a cause-effect relationship that may not truly exist. These questions may also cause respondents to feel defensive, e.g., that they have to justify their response, which may inhibit their responses to this and future questions.

Conducting Interview

  1. Occasionally verify the tape recorder (if used) is working.
  2. Ask one question at a time.
  3. Attempt to remain as neutral as possible. That is, don't show strong emotional reactions to their responses. Patton suggests to act as if "you've heard it all before."
  4. Encourage responses with occasional nods of the head, "uh huh"s, etc.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)."
  7. 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

  1. Verify if the tape recorder, if used, worked throughout the interview.
  2. Make any notes on your written notes, e.g., to clarify any notes, ensure pages are numbered, fill out any notes that don't make senses, etc.
  3. Write down any observations made during the interview. For example, where did the interview occur and when, was the respondent particularly nervous at any time? Were there any surprises during the interview? Did the tape recorder break?