Why is it important to have an interview guide?

An interview guide is a document that allows organizations to structure the way they conduct their interviews with candidates. It helps interviewers know what to ask and in what order, and ensures that all candidates have the same experience. Interview guides should describe topics that the researcher believes may be important. Participants are asked to respond in their own words and to raise points that they consider important, so each interview is likely to flow a little differently.

While the initial question of an in-depth interview may be the same in all interviews, the information that each participant shared will determine the course of the interview. This is what makes in-depth interviews so exciting and challenging. An expert interviewer is needed to be able to ask questions, listen to respondents and pick up cues about when to follow up, move forward, or simply let the participant speak without guidance or interruption. You can also decide, midway through, that a whole line of questions isn't appropriate for a particular interviewee.

As with quantitative surveys, qualitative interviews are based on the ability of respondents to accurately and honestly remember specific details about their lives, circumstances, thoughts, opinions, or behaviors. As we mentioned in this section, qualitative interviews are a great way to gather detailed information. In this section, we'll see how to conduct qualitative interviews, analyze interview data, and identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of this method. Remember that one of the benefits of qualitative interviews is that you can ask participants for more information, so be sure to do so.

Unfortunately, even the most diligent researcher can't write down everything he sees or hears during an interview. Of course, not all participants will feel comfortable being recorded and there may be situations where the interviewer feels that the topic is too sensitive to be recorded. The researcher may only have a rough idea of where the interview will go, which will allow what the respondents say to direct the course of the conversation. In this case, the researcher could use the detailed guide to prepare and practice before conducting the interviews and then bring a brief summary to the interview.

In addition to interview styles, decisions must be made about who to interview; how to communicate with them; how to establish a good relationship; how to write, sort, and ask questions; how much personal information, if any, to disclose; if one should play the role of a naive or informed listener; how to record what is said (tape or notes); and when to stop doing so. Some studies are longitudinal and conduct several interviews with the same subjects over a period of time. The main purpose of an in-depth interview is to hear what the respondents consider important about the topic in question and to hear it in their own words. One of the first challenges in developing the data collection approach for the present study was to decide how to present the topic of the interview without unduly influencing the conceptions or experiences of the participants on the topic.

Semi-structured interviews have some “standard” questions, as well as ad hoc questions posed by the respondent. You could consider writing any note in the interview guide as an approach that will reduce data analysis later on. Writing what was said in interviews and analyzing qualitative data are time-consuming processes.