My name is Stefanie Leite and I am a Research Assistant for Advanced Empirical Solutions and an Independent Evaluation Consultant. Interviewing is my favorite means of information gathering. There is something immensely satisfying about asking people to tell their stories, capturing them accurately and artfully, and then relaying them to the decision makers in an evaluation report. Most interviews that I’ve conducted have afforded me 60 minutes to build a relationship with someone I have never met where there is no handshake, eye contact, or smiles exchanged. So for the purposes of this blog, I’d like to share with you some (albeit low-tech) things that I’ve learned about building rapport with interviewees over the telephone.
- Prepare yourself ahead of time – learn about the person you will interview and learn some of his/her industry’s jargon.
- Demonstrate genuine enthusiasm and curiosity to speak with the person.
- Smile while speaking – it projects a positive attitude.
- After introducing yourself and the purpose of the interview, engage the person in light conversation to help him/her relax.
- Begin the interview with easy, non-threatening questions.
- Give 110% of your attention – remove distractions (e.g. turn off call waiting) and focus on what he/she is saying.
- Use active listening techniques, such as paraphrasing, to assure your interviewee that you’re listening and to assure yourself that you’ve understood.
- Offer verbal reinforcement that does not qualify what the interviewee said – for example, “I understand,” “uh-huh,” and “I see” are safe options.
- Know the interview protocol well enough so that it can be read without sounding like it’s being read, and you can ask questions without hesitancy.
- Try to subtly mirror the speech patterns of the interviewee, such as speed, pitch, volume and pronunciation, because similarity puts people at ease.
- Avoid using a speakerphone, if possible.
- Allow for a few moments of silence before rephrasing the question.
- At the end of the interview, thank the person and indicate that you found the interview useful and worthwhile.
Rad Resource: Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences 3rd Edition by Irving Seidman. Available on http://www.amazon.com/
This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.