2. Set up your interviews
Interviewers are ideally skilled at interviewing, and knowledgeable about the field and people they will be interviewing. They must be active listeners and good note-takers. There are advantages and disadvantages to using an interviewer who is familiar to the interviewee; some users may prefer communicating with a person they know, while others may wish to speak to someone who is neutral. It can be helpful to get training for interviewers where possible.
Topic guides for interviewers
A topic guide should outline the questions the interviewer needs to ask, and provide instructions on how to capture feedback, for example.
- Keep your questions simple, focused, and easy to understand. Use non-technical language, and keep sentences short. Avoid words that are open to interpretation; for example, use ‘daily’ or ‘weekly’ rather than ‘often’ or ‘usually’.
- For closed questions, avoid leading questions. These are questions that prompt or encourage a specific answer; for example, ‘How satisfied are you with the service?’.
- For open questions, try to encourage full responses. If the participant’s answer is short, the interviewer can reply with ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ or leave silence for them to elaborate.
- Ask one thing at a time. For example, split ‘Did you find the session helpful and interesting?’ into two questions, because “helpful” and “interesting” are not the same thing.
- Focus on the objectives of your interviews. It can be tempting to take advantage of the opportunity to gather information that is peripheral to your immediate objective. For example, you may want to ask about other aspects of your service, test interest in an event or project, or gauge opinion on a particular issue. This will only make your survey longer and less appealing to participants.
Communicate with participants in advance
Confirm the time, how you will conduct your survey (in person, over the phone or online), and the location, where necessary, and share a brief overview of the topics to be discussed. Explain the purpose of the interview and what will be done with the information.
Consider if you can preserve anonymity
Interviews can be carried out by a trained member of staff, but it is better to commission an external evaluator or use trained volunteers. Respondents will be more likely to give honest answers.
Clarify how you will capture information
You could take notes or record the conversation. Remember that you will need permission to do both of these things before conducting the interview, and there will be data protection implications for the information you collect.