27 Interview Techniques

Interview Techniques

• Begin an interview by explaining succinctly the purpose of the interview and how the information will be used.

• Keep the interview on track. Maintain control of the interview by knowing what you want to find out, asking the right questions to get that information, and giving appropriate feedback to the interviewee. Time for interviews is usually limited, so it is important to redirect responses that are irrelevant and to control the length of time devoted to lengthy digressions.

• Allow interviewees to respond to questions in their own words and to express their perspectives. Avoid leading questions or questions that slant the answers given in a particular direction. The way a question is worded is very important in how the interviewee will respond to the question.

• Questions should be open-ended allowing the interviewees to respond in their own words. There are a few exceptions, such as demographic questions and knowledge questions.

• Avoid jumping in to fill silences. Give the interviewee time to formulate answers. The interviewer should not do more talking than the interviewee.

• Assume the interviewee has something to say, and phrase your questions to indicate that. Instead of asking “have you learned anything from using this application”, ask “what have you learned from using this application?”

• Ask clear, singular questions.. Avoid asking multiple questions without giving the interviewee a chance to respond to each question individually. Avoid asking “How easy is the program to use and what do you like and dislike about it?” Break the question into a series of three questions.

• Ask questions that are understandable to the interviewee. Use correct terminology if specialized terminology is used in the setting, and know what terminology interviewees use among themselves with respect to the application. Avoid using jargon unless you are sure the jargon are used in the setting and that you are using the jargon correctly.

• In general, avoid why questions that seem to challenge the interviewee. Why questions might imply that a person’s response is not appropriate. “Why do you say that?”

• Try to establish a rapport with the interviewee by asking neutral quesions – questions that encourage the interviewee to respond honestly without feeling you are judging the answers.

• Sometimes it helps to phrase clarifying questions in the form of an example. The examples should be balanced between positive and negative kinds of responses. Some employees have told me that they never use the documentation for this application, while others have told me that they cannot use the application without regularly using the documentation. What has been your experience using the application?

• Make a transition statement when the direction of the questions is going to change. “We have been talking about the documentation for the application, now I’d like to ask you some questions about the actual application itself”.

• Even if you tape record an interview, it is important to take observation notes as well. A headshake does not record well.

• Take an interest in what the interviewee is saying. Be sensitive to and respect the person being interviewed.


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