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Ch. 4 - Structuring the Interview

- every interview has a degree of structure, the nature of which is determined by purpose, length and complexity.
- different types of interviews require different structures, but fundamental principles and techniques apply to all



- the first step in preparing for an interview is to determine a clear purpose.
- the second step is to prepare the interview guide



- an interview guide contains topics, not questions
- the second step of an interview process is to prepare an interview guide, which is a carefully structured outline of topics and subtopics to be covered, NOT a list of questions.
- a guide enables you to identify specific areas of inquiry that ensures coverage of important topics during the heat of the interview and helps you to distinguish relevant from irrelevant information.
- It will assist you in phrasing questions, recording answers, and recalling information at a later date.


Outline Sequences:

- an interview guide is basically an outline.
- outline sequences are useful for interviews.
- sequences help organized topics and impose a degree of structure on interviews.


Outline Sequences:

Topical Sequence

- a topical sequence follows a natural division of a topic or issue.
- for example, if you are planning to interview a number of attorneys about law schools you may attend, your guide would include such topics as ranking among law schools, areas of specialization, quality of the law school review, number and type of law firms that come to campus for interviews, and costs.
- the traditional journalist guide consisting of six key words - who, what, when, where, how and why - is useful in many interview settings.


Outline Sequences:

Time Sequences

- treats topics or parts of topics in chronological order.
- for instance, a conference on solar powered vehicles may start with registration from 830-930, proceed to a general session on the history of solar power vehicles at 10:30, a session of recent developments in solar powering of vehicles at 11:30, have lunch from 12:30 - 1pm, a demonstration of solar powered vehicles from 1:30-3:30 and a closing session from 3:30 to 4:30 PM


Outline Sequences:

Space Sequence

- a space sequences arranges topics according to spacial divisions
- left to right, top to bottom, north to south, or neighborhood to neighborhood.
- a person conducting tours of a resort might begin with the restaurants and bars, and then proceed to the pool area, sauna, fitness facility, golf course and marina


Outline Sequences:

Cause-to-effect Sequence

- this sequence explores cause and effect. an interviewer might begin with a cause or causes and then proceed to effect, or discuss apparent effect and then move to possible causes.
- for example, if you were investigating the collapse of a stage during a violent thunderstorm, you may interview people in the areas during the collapse to determine effects of the storm followed by interviews with structural engineers to determines the cause or causes of the collapse.


Outline Sequences:

Problem-Solution Sequence

- consists of a problem phase and a solution phase.
- you might conduct interviews with recruiters to discuss a serious problem with lack of diversity among an organization's workforce and then identify and discuss possible solutions.


Developing an Interview Guide:

- a guide ensures the consideration of all important topics and subtopics.
- interviews may include more than one sequence or none at all.
- as your start your interview guide, begin with major areas of information you need to make your decision
- finally with the major areas and subtopics listed, determine if there are important subtopics of subtopics.
- you may not know enough prior to an interview to develop subtopics under certain areas and subtopics or you may discover additional subtopics during the interview.
- the interview guide enables you to add and delete as necessary.
- you may employ more than one outline sequence in an interview.
- selection of areas and appropriate subtopics will determine which sequences are most appropriate.


Interview Schedules:

Nonscheduled Interview

- after completing an interview guide, decide if additional structuring and preparation are needed.
- the guide may be sufficient enough to conduct a nonscheduled interview with no questions prepared in advance.
- the nonscheduled interview is most appropriate when interviews will be brief, interviewees and information levels differ significantly, interviewees are reluctant to respond or have poor memories, or there is little preparation time.


Interview Schedules:

Nonscheduled Interview

- a nonscheduled interview gives you unlimited freedom to probe into answers and adapt to different interviewees and situations because it is the most flexible of interview schedules
- however, nonscheduled interviews require considerable skills and are difficult to replicate from one interview to another.
- you may have difficultly controlling time and interviewer bias may creep into unplanned questions.
- a nonscheduled interview is merely an interview guide.


Interview Schedules:

Moderately Scheduled Interview

- a moderately scheduled interview consists of all major questions with probing questions under each.
- The sentences and phrases in a guide become questions
- the moderate schedule, like the nonscheduled interview, allows freedom to probe into answers and adapt to different interviewees, but it also imposes a greater degree of structure, aids in recording answers, and is easier to conduct and replicate.
- you need not create every question on the spot but have many thought out and carefully worded in advance.
- this lessens pressures during the interview.


Interview Schedules:

Moderately Scheduled Interview

- since interview parties tend to wander during unstructured interviews, listing questions makes it easier to keep on track and return to a structure when desired.
- journalists, medical practitioners, recruiters, lawyers, police officers, and insurance investigators tend to use moderately scheduled interviews.


Interview Schedules:

Highly Scheduled Interview

- a highly scheduled interview sacrifices flexibility and adaptability for control.
- on paper a highly scheduled interview may look no different from the moderately scheduled interview, but they are very different in execution.
- unlike those in a moderate schedule, all questions in a highly scheduled interview are asked exactly in the order they are listed and worded on the schedule.


Interview Schedules:

Highly Scheduled Interview

- questions may be closed so respondents can give brief, specific answers.
- highly scheduled interviews are easy to replicate and conduct, take less time and nonscheduled and moderately scheduled, and prevent parties from wandering into irrelevant areas or spending too much time on one or two topics.
- flexibility and adaption are NOT options
- probing questions must be planned and not asked on the spot.
- researchers and survey takers use highly scheduled interviews.


Interview Schedules:

Highly Scheduled Standardized Interview

- these interviews provide precision, replicability, and reliability.
- this is the most thoroughly planned and structured type of interview.
- all questions and answer options are stated in identical words to each interviewee who then picks answers from those provided.
- there is no straying from the schedule by either party.
- these are the easiest types of interviews to conduct, record, tabulate, replicate, so even novice interviewers can handle them.


Interview Schedules:

Highly Scheduled Standardized Interview

- however, the breadth of information is restricted, and probing into answer, explaining questions, and adapting to different interviewees are not permitted.
- respondents can not explain, amplify, qualify or question any answer options.
- built-in interviewer bias may be worse than accidental bias encountered in nonscheduled and moderately scheduled interviews.
- researchers and survey takers use highly scheduled standardized interviews because their procedures must produce the same results in repeated interviews by several interviewers.


Interview Schedules - summary

- each interviewing schedule has unique advantages and disadvantages
- choose the schedule best suited to your needs, skills, type of information desired, and situation.
- one type of schedule does not fit all interview types and situations
- a schedule designed for a survey would be a terrible schedule for an employment interview.
- be aware of the options available and which one or ones seems most appropriate for each interview.


Figure 4.1 for Nonscheduled Interviews

Nonscheduled Interview:
- high breadth and depth of potential information
- low degree of precision, reproducibility, and reliability.
- interviewer has low control over the interview
- high level of skill is required for the interviewer
- interviewer has high freedom to adapt to different interviewees and situations.
- low-medium amount of preinterview preparation required.


Combination of Schedules

- consider strategic combinations of schedules
- for example, use a nonscheduled approach for the opening minutes, a moderately scheduled approach when it is necessary to probe and adapt to interviewees, and a highly scheduled standardized approach for easily quantifiable information such as age, religion, formal education and marital status.
- schedules range from a topic outline to a manuscript.
- for instance, you might write major arguments for a persuasive interview, instructions for an information-giving interview, and the opening and closing for a survey interview.


Question Sequences:

- common question sequences are tunnel, funnel, inverted funnel, hourglass, diamond, and quintamensional design


Question Sequences:

Tunnel Sequence

- a tunnel sequence works well with informal and simple interviews.
- the tunnel sequence, or string of beads, is a similarly phrased string of open or closed questions.
- each question may cover a specific topic, ask for a specific piece of information, or identify and attitude or feeling.
- the tunnel sequence is common in polls, surveys, journalistic interviews, and medical interviews designed to elicit info, attitudes, reactions and intentions.
- when the questions are closed, the information is easy to record and quantify.


Question Sequences:

Funnel Sequence (open to closed)

- a funnel sequence begins with broad, open-ended questions and proceeds with more restricted questions.
- this sequence begins with open ended questions and is most appropriate when respondents are familiar with a topic, feel free to talk about it, want to express their feelings, and are motivated to reveal and explain attitudes.
- the funnel sequence lesses possible conditioning or biasing of later responses.
- for example, if you begin an interview with a closed question you may force a respondent to take a polar position or appear to signal that you want only brief answers.
- an open question does not force respondents to take polarized positions and enables them to explain and qualify positions.


Question Sequences:

Inverted Funnel Sequence (closed to open)

- begins with closed questions and proceeds towards open questions. it is most useful when you need to motivate an interviewee to respond or an interviewee is emotionally involved in an issue or situation and cannot readily reply to an open question.
- this sequence provides a warm up time for those that are reluctant to talk.
- best when interviewees feel they do not know much about atopic or do not want to talk. a respondent's memory or thought processes may need assistance, and closed questions can serve as warm ups when open ended ones might overwhelm a person or result in disorganized and confused answers.
- this sequence may end with "clearing house question" such as... Is there anything else you would like to tell me?


Combination Sequences:

Hourglass Sequence (open-closed-open)

- a situation may call for a combination of sequences
- for instance, the hourglass sequence begins with open questions, proceeds to closed questions, and ends with open questions.
- employ it when you wish to begin with a funnel sequence and then proceed in your line of questions to an inverted funnel sequence
- this combination enables you to narrow your focus and then proceed to open it up when the interviewee or topic warrants it.


Combination Sequences:

Diamond Sequence (closed-open-closed)

- the diamond sequence enables interviewers to begin with closed questions, proceed to open questions, and end with closed questions.
- each combination sequence offers different arrangements of open and closed questions that enable you to approach specific interview situations and interviewees with flexibility and adaptability


Quintamensional Design Sequence

- George Gallup, the famous poll designer, developed this design sequence to assess the intensity of opinions and attitudes.
- this five-step approach proceeds from an interviewee's awareness of the issue to attitudes uninfluenced by the interviewer, specific attitudes, reasons for these attitudes, and intensity of attitude. Example:

1. Awareness: What do you know about the new state law banning smoking in some facilities?
2. Uninfluenced Attitudes: How might this bad affect you?
3. Specific Attitude: do you approve of disapprove of the statewide ban on smoking?
4. Reason why: Why do you feel this way?
5. Intensity of Attitude: How strongly do you feel about this - strongly, very strongly, not something you will change your mind on?


Quintamensional Design Sequence

- you can use this sequence, or modify it by creating questions most suitable for specific interview situations.
- once you have determined a specific purpose for you interview and developed a structure appropriate for your interview, you are ready to create an opening adapted to the parties in the interview, the situation, and your purpose.
- the few seconds or minutes spend in the openings are critical to the success of your interview.



- it takes two parties to launch and interview successfully.
- what you do and say, or fail to do and say in the opening influences how the other party perceived self, you and the situation.
- the opening sets the mood of the interview and affects willingness and ability to go beyond Level 1 interactions.
- the tone may be serious/lighthearted, optimistic/pessimistic, professional/nonprofessional, formal/informal, threatening/nonthreatening, or relaxed/tense
- a poor opening may lead to a defensive climate with superficial, vague, and inaccurate responses.
- if dissatisfied with the opening a party may say no, walk away, close the door or hang up the phone.



- the primary function of the opening is to motivate both parties to participate willingly and to communicate freely and accurately.
- motivation is a mutual product of interviewer and interviewee, so every opening must be a DIALOGUE, not a monologue.
- it is DONE WITH the other party, not TO the other party.
- too often the interviewee is given little opportunity to say anything beyond single-word responses to opening questions.
- interrupting an interviewee is common.



The Two-step Process (Establish Rapport and Orient the Other Party)

- the opening is a two step process of establishing rapport and orienting the other party that encourages active participation and willingness to continue with the interview.
- what is included and how content is shared depends upon interview type, situation, relationship and preferences.



The Two-Step Process: Establish Rapport

- rapport is the process of establishing and sustaining a relationship between interviewer and interviewee by creating feelings of goodwill and trust.
- you may begin with a self introduction or a simple greeting if the relationship is established and positive accompanied by appropriate nonverbal actions such as a firm handshake, eye contact, a smile, a nod, a pleasant, friendly voice.
- the rapport step may include personal inquiries or small talk about weather, mutual acquaintances, families, sports, and new events.
- considering flavoring a personal inquiry and small talk with tasteful and appropriate humor.
- do not prolong the rapport stage; know when enough is enough.



The Two-Step Process: Establish Rapport

- customs of a geographical area, organizational traditions or policies, culture, status differences, relationship, formality of the occasion, interview type, and situation may determine the appropriate verbal and nonverbal rapport-building techniques of each interview.