Practical Tips and Guidelines: Conducting Face-To-face Interviews (And Even Focus Groups)
Disaster Research Center
The interview process is, to some extent, an art form but it is also based (or should be) on scientifically grounded theories and methodologies. In my judgment, a good theoretical and methodological background is extremely important to allow us to generate the knowledge, expertise, and skills to carryout face-to-face interviews. However, hands-on experience is instrumental. It is through the actual interview process that we will polish and fine tune our skills, develop new interview strategies and abilities, and learn to establish an interactive process and the “connection” between interviewer and interviewee that is essential to generate a comfortable and stimulating environment. Experience is indeed the best “teacher” allowing us to identify our interview skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Further, if we are reflective enough, we should learn from our mistakes thus allowing us to improve the quality and results of the interview process. In order to facilitate and enhance the interview process, in the following section, we provide a number of practical guidelines and tips (based on observation and experience, including my own mistakes). This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of tips and ideas. Further, many of these tips are not original and they may appear to the reader to be “obvious” or “common sense,” until we discover (after completing the interview) that we committed some serious mistakes which may impact the outcome of our research. It is noteworthy that the following issues are not necessarily listed chronologically or in order of importance (although we have tried to do this as best as possible). Thinking about these issues before, during, and after the interview process, will allow us to generate a methodology that is systematic, uniform (as best as possible), and that will enhance the interview process. That being said, as with all types of art forms, creativity and critical thinking is an important part of the interview process.