Getting the in-depth story behind the experience an individual has within an organisation is one of the advantages of using interviews as a diagnostic tool. They are also useful as a questionnaire follow-up to get more information around a topic or responses which may require further investigation.
Interviews can provide the OD practitioner with information on a variety of topics including behaviour; the interviewees opinions, values and feelings; knowledge in regards to the facts about a topic; background/demographic information to aid analysis and even sensory information such as what someone has seen, touched, heard, tasted or smelled.
The start point of any interview is to have clarity over what the problem is that you are wishing to address. A clearly articulated purpose ensures that questions are focused to gather information which will be pertinent and useful in the later stages of intervention and evaluation.
Before the Interview
Very often you can be so focused on what the interview is about that you forget the Who and Where are equally important. Choosing a location, which is comfortable yet confidential will ensure that the interview can progress without interruption or distraction. Choosing the right people to interview is also essential. Who in the organisation is likely to provide the information you need that will unlock the problem you are investigating? It isn’t just those in hierarchically powerful positions but also those most effected by the problem being investigated.
Setting the Scene
Ethical practices are extremely important in ensuring you maintain your integrity as an OD practitioner. Therefore being transparent about confidentiality in regards to who will have access to the output of the interview, how answers will be analysed and permission to use their answers as quotes are especially important. If you are recording the interview you must ask permission first. Finally set the scene for the interview by explaining the type and format of the interview and how long you expect the interview to last.
Once you have set the scene try and engage the interviewee as soon as possible. Make sure you ask for opinions and feelings as well as factual information. It a good idea to ask about past, present and future in regards to their work and leave the more controversial questions for later in the interview when you have built rapport and trust with the interviewee. Finish by ask the interviewee if they have any questions or need any further information as well as, for your evaluation, their impression of the interview.
Types of Interview
Informal – These interviews are conversational in nature and rather than relying on pre-determined questions require the interviewer to respond to the flow and direction that the interviewee’s answers take the conversation.
Focused Conversation – Still adaptable this approach helps ensure the same general areas of topic are covered by guiding the interviewee through areas of focus to ensure the same general information is gathered from each interviewee.
Open-ended – The same interview questions are asked of each interviewee but they are open questions allowing for freedom over how to answer a question whilst providing comparison interviews which are more easily analysed.
Closed – Interviewees are asked a series of questions with answers restricted by closed questions which have yes or no answers or a set choice of alternative answers.
Your Conduct as a Practitioner
As a OD practitioner conducting a diagnostic you must remain neutral. You must ensure you design your questions to be neutral and not leading, that when asking the questions you remain neutral, even if you hear something really shocking and that you listen to what is being said. This means you must avoid interrupting and finish sentences and once an interviewee has finished answering an open ended question leave space for them to continue, it is often useful to ask “do you wish to add anything further.” If you are taking notes be aware of your body language when writing things down; if an interviewee thought you were only interested in certain things they said this may influence later answers.
Ending an Interview
Make sure you thank the interviewee for their time, explain again what will happen with any recording or notes taken. Immediately after the interview review your notes and revise any that don’t make sense. Finally reflect on how the interview went including any observations regarding the conduct of the interviewee, such as if they were nervous or excited.