Interviews are a popular technique with analysts. Unfortunately, they’re not that simple. Great interviews do not just happen. They have to be carefully planned with every minor detail ironed out before the day. Without further ado, this post outlines the basic but crucial factors that analysts should be aware of before, during and after an interview session.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Who do you need to interview?: Understanding the way the organization is structured by perusing the organizational chart or doing some initial groundwork in selecting interviewees (especially in a new environment) is a wise first step. Understanding who is responsible for what and who has information about what is critical to getting the information you need. Stakeholder profiling can help the analyst identify which stakeholders are worth interviewing, what their stakes are in the project as well as their attitudes.
Nothing beats being prepared: A key part of being prepared is identifying the main goal of the interview. The more background work and research you do before the interview, the more you can identify the grey areas that need to be clarified during the interview. Designing the interview is another key part of being prepared. It is important to gain an understanding of the strategies for asking questions and learning the art of intelligent questioning – these are critical to getting the right results.
Location matters too: The analyst should avoid venues where colleagues or passers-by can listen to ensuing conversations. Private office spaces or meeting rooms are usually more convenient and will ensure that both the interviewer and interviewee are comfortable enough to engage in meaningful and confidential discussions
Go ahead, schedule the appointment: Determine how much time is needed to elicit the information you need. Usually, the higher the management level of the interviewee, the less time should be scheduled. With interviewees of a more junior cadre, the analyst should obtain permission from their supervisors so that they are covered while away from their desk. It might also be useful to reserve some extra interview time for the interviewee's questions and bringing the interview back on track should either party digress. 30 minutes to 1 hour is a good guide.
Don’t forget your navigator: The interview guide can be likened to the navigator of a car which guides you till you arrive at your destination. It contains the questions to be asked, follow-up questions depending on the interviewee’s responses as well as the amount of time to be spent on each question.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Watch Your Language: Avoid using acronyms, professional jargons and ambiguous terms. Remember that the objective of any interview is to achieve communication. Your interviewee should be able to understand what you’re saying so ensure you use clear and concise language.
Ask questions intelligently: questioning is an art that can only be developed with time, practice and dedication. Practise the art of intelligent questioning.
Opening the Interview: The opening part of the interview presents a golden opportunity to establish a solid rapport with your interviewee. Create a relaxed setting by using an icebreaker to start the interview session. It is considered good practice to start the interview session by explaining the purpose of the interview, how the elicited information will be used, what you expect from the interviewee, the benefits of the interviewee's participation as well as the structure of the interview.
Body of the Interview: This is the most time-consuming and perhaps, the most critical aspect of the interview. It is where the analyst obtains answers to interview questions, listens closely and observes body language clues. The analyst may also need to keep the interview on track and probe the interviewee when facts are unclear. It’s important not to reveal any personal bias or make assumptions during the interview session.
Concluding the Interview: The analyst should show some appreciation at this point by expressing gratitude and responding to any follow-up questions the interviewee may have. Interviews should never be extended longer than is necessary.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Verify the Information: It’s important to verify the information gathered during the interview session for correctness by sending it to the interviewee while the conversation is still fresh. This will ensure that any aspects left out or areas of misrepresentation are promptly clarified. It’s also an opportunity to gain additional information which the interviewee may have omitted during the interview.
What has been your experience with interviews? Do share.