Conducting the Interview: Logistics
Just before the interview
- Check your recording equipment; make sure it is working. If you are using a digital recorder, make sure it is fully charged. If your recorder has batteries, insert new ones or make doubly sure they are fully charged. Bring extra batteries with you. Bring extra audiocassettes. Use longer cassettes than you expect to need (i.e., a 90-minute cassette for a 60-minute interview).
- Make sure you have your interview questions, and a notebook/paper and pens to jot down notes.
- Record – on audio and in writing – your name, the name of the person you are interviewing, and the date of the interview.
- Leave yourself some time to get centered and focused. Find a quiet place to sit and think about why you wanted to interview this person and what you hope to learn. Review your interview questions. Breathe! Do whatever else helps you to be most focused and relaxed. Remember: it’s normal to be nervous, even for experienced interviewers: you’d like a good conversation, but each interview is uncertain and different. A bit of anticipatory anxiety can help you to be alert, to ask fresh questions and to learn.
- Remember that most people are quite delighted to talk about their work to an interested listener. You’re helping your interviewee tell their story, contributing interest and recognition in their work, helping them to be heard, and recognizing the importance of what they have to say.
During the interview
- Introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to engage in “small talk.” Most people find it somewhat difficult to talk to strangers. A bit of small talk can help people relax and get to know you a bit.
- Thank the interviewee for talking with you. Review, very briefly, the purpose and structure of the interview. If the consent form hasn’t been signed previously, ask the interviewee to sign it now.
- Make sure the recorder is away from windows, air conditions, refrigerators, computers, and any other external sources of noise. Start the recording equipment.
- Try to develop rapport with the interviewee. Express appreciation for his/her candor and perspective. (You can honestly respect someone even if you have no fondness for her/his views.) Remember, whether you happen to agree with the interviewee or not, you are there to get his/her views and account, not to judge. Learn all you can. Ask good questions and listen!
- Some interviewers like to take notes throughout the interview. It can be helpful to jot down key phrases or things you want to come back to.
At the end of the interview
- Never, never turn the recorder off until they’ve said “good-bye.” Much good material pops up as “after-thoughts.” Every interviewer has had the experience of saying “thanks very much,” and hearing “sure, I’ve got to go,” when all of a sudden, as the interviewee gets up, they say, “Yeah, it was really interesting when….” – and you really want to have the recorder still running.
- Thank your interviewee again. Restate your assurance of confidentiality and next steps. Remind her/him that you will send a copy of the edited profile for review, corrections. Ask if you can call later if you need any clarification…
Within two days
- Send a thank you note.
- Find a quiet place to write up your interview ASAP. You will lose memories of key phrases and surprising views quickly as you work on other things. Do this even, or especially, if you have recorded. Don’t think that having the recording means you can worry about content later; the interview will never be as fresh as at that moment. Let yourself write a bit about what you’ve just learned.
- Begin to transcribe the recorded interview while it is still fresh in your mind.