Pro/Con | Guide | Resources | Examples | Tools



  • get full range and depth of information

  • develops relationship with respondent

  • can be more flexible with respondent

  • accurate information

  • interviewer has control and can give help if necessary

  • can record using multi-media

  • characteristics of respondents can be evaluated (tone, expression, hesitation)

  • one interviewer provides uniformity

  • allows for probing and follow-up questions

  • insight into respondents “way of thinking”, opinions and feelings

  • can provide quick turnaround (in-person, telephone or email format)

  • high validity if constructed well

  • can be time consuming

  • can be hard to analyze and compare

  • can be costly

  • interviewer can bias client’s responses (ex: eagerness to please interviewer, antagonism towards interviewer, interviewer may seek information based on their preconceived notions)

  • geographic limitations

  • respondents bias (tend to please, create false image for interviewer, or to end interview quickly)

  • embarrassment

  • untrained interviewers could distort data

  • measures need validation


Things to Consider (similar to Questionnaires)

  • Types of Interviewing:
    • Face to Face Interviews:
      • You can adapt your questions based on participants responses
      • You will need recording equipment
      • Highly recommended you bring two recording devices (in case one fails)
    • Phone Interviews:
      • Allows you to interview someone geographically far away or who is too busy to meet with you
      • Need special recording device for us with phone systems
    • Email Interviews:
      • Less personal but convenient
      • May not get as much information because you are not able to ask appropriate follow-up questions
      • Already in digital format
    • Chat/Messaging Interview
      • Allows you to interview someone geographically far away
      • You can adapt your questions based on participants responses
      • If participants are not fluent in typing, you may not get as lengthy responses
  • Things to think about:
    • start with small talk to get more comfortable
    • bring two recording devices (in case one fails)
    • pay attention to responses so you can create follow up questions on the spot
    • come to interview prepared (learn as much as you can about the person you are interviewing so you can tailor your questions to them)
    • do not pester or push person for the interview
    • be flexible enough to adapt your questions, if necessary
    • keep conversation on topic (redirect participant, if necessary)
  • Types of interviews:
  • Structured
    • Carefully worded interview schedule (similar to survey but without response choices)
    • Frequently require short answers
    • Useful when there are a lot of questions which are not thought provoking
    • Participant may become irritated with giving short, over-simplified answers
  • Semi-structured
    • Interview is structured with certain questions
    • Allows participant to express answers at length
  • Unstructured (in-depth)
    • Begin by asking a general question
    • Encourages the participant to talk freely
    • Interview being determined by participants responses
    • Interviewer probes for elaboration (“Why”, “Tell me more”, etc.)

Planning an Interview

  • List the areas in which you require information.
  • Decide on type of interview.
  • Transform areas into actual questions.
  • Try them out on a friend or relative.
  • Make an appointment with respondent(s) – discussing details of why and how long.
  • Try and fix a venue and time when you will not be disturbed.

 Conducting an interview:

  • Personally
    • arrive on time
    • be smart, smile and employ good manners
    • find balance between friendliness and objectivity
    • trustworthy
    • dress appropriately
  • At the start
    • introduce yourself
    • reconfirm consent, purpose, format and time frame
    • assure confidentiality
    • if possible, specify what will happen with the data
    • provide contact information
  • Questions
    • speak slowly and in a soft tone
    • control your body language
    • know your questions and topic
    • ask one question at a time
    • ask all of your questions
    • remain as neutral as possible
    • encourage responses
    • provide transition between major topics
  • Responses
    • record as you go
    • agree beforehand to record (have alternative method if not acceptable by participant)
    • check equipment for good working order periodically
    • have back-up plan (extra batteries, other equipment, etc.)
    • be careful of appearance as you are taking notes
  • At the end
    • ask respondent if they would like to elaborate on anything
    • verify your understanding by summarizing, if appropriate
    • thank them for their time and participation
    • make any additional hand-written notes and/or observations right after interview (while it is still fresh on your mind!)

Good Websites to gain more insight:

Guidelines for Oral History interviewing:

Tips for the interviewing process:

Interviewing for Oral History Purposes:

Guidelines for follow-up to an interview:


An example of an open-ended question interview:


Transcript of an interview with a playwright


Sample Thank You Letter

April 2, 2001

Ernie English
1234 Writing Lab Lane
Write City, IN 12345

Dear Mr. English:

The purpose of the follow-up to an interview is to convey your thankfulness at being given an interview. In the opening paragraph, thank the interviewer for their time. Thank them for allowing you to learn about the position and the company.

In the body of your letter, present a personal analysis of your interview and visit. It is important to avoid clichés and generalizations such as, "My visit to your company was very informational and interesting." Write about your impressions of the company and your review of the interview proceedings. You may also want to point out any new information that you learned about the company during your visit. If there is any new information about your education or work experience that you believe would be increase your chance of getting the position, present those as well.

In your conclusion it is important to be positive and reflect goodwill. The letter's intent is to show the interviewer that you are thorough, courteous, efficient and, most importantly, that you are sincerely interested in the job. It is likely that sending this letter will set you apart from the crowd.


Lucy Letter
123 Winner's Road
Employee Town, PA 12345

Using a word document, you can create a thank you letter. Be sure to include the information listed above.

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