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Tips For Aspiring Interviewers

The recent increase in evidence-based practice and policy-making means more people have to know how to interview. This article provides simple tips to ease the way.

Who to Interview?

The guide to who to interview should be the questions that need answering. It is only useful to interview someone who can provide answer to the questions being asked. Therefore, always ask the question before trying to set up an interview, "Can this person ask the question I need to answer?" If the answer is "No", then its pointless asking the question.

What Sort of Interview Should be Used?

If the project involves finding out very specific information, then a series of highly-focused, and relatively closed, questions is what’s needed. These will provide specific information about the various elements of a topic. To conduct this type of interview, the interviewer is required beforehand to be quite knowledgeable about the topic.

If the interview is intended to provide background information, perhaps because the interviewer is less knowledgeable about the topic, then a more general interview is called, using general more open question with specific follow-up questions designed to fill in the grey areas revealed by the more open answers.

An in-depth interview, on the other hand, will pursue a relatively narrow area or topic in great depth and will allow the interviewer to explore a greater variety of aspects of the topic than either of the other two. Sometimes it is necessary to return for a second interview, if the material is too rich to obtain at one go. Remember, however, to check whether this is possible before committing all the available time to just part of the topic.

What Should an Interview be Like?

An interview is best if both interviewer and interviewee come away from it feeling as though they’ve each had a very good conversation about a topic they’re both very interested in. This requires three things of the interviewer.

The interviewer must be prepared. If the interview is to be recorded, make sure the machine is working. Make sure the questions make sense. Make sure the questions ask what they should ask. It is very easy to have a question with two meanings. That makes analysis very difficult.

The interviewer must be polite and well-mannered. This does not necessarily mean getting dressed-up in formal dress, but it does mean the interviewer dressing appropriately, behaving well and remembering that the interviewee is giving their time, almost always, free.

The interviewer must be focused. If this is not the case, the interviewee may well feel that his time is being wasted and stop the interview early. An interviewer should not outstay his or her welcome. Once the required information has been obtained, interviewers should take their leave of the interviewee. This then allows the interviewee to go somewhere quiet, a cafe or a park bench possibly, and write notes and reflections about the interview as soon as possible after its conclusion and certainly before the next interview.

The Skill of Interviewing

Interviewing is a skill. Get it right and the analysis and conclusions will follow naturally, Get it wrong and bad policy and practice recommendations are bound to follow.

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