Top Ten Key Interviewing Tips
Don’t rush into the interview. Make sure you have thought of questions you want to ask and what you need to know. But be flexible; be able to follow where the interviewee leads if it seems likely to yield information.
2. SET GROUND RULES
Make sure that the interviewee is told how you intend to conduct the interview, what you are seeking to do together (solve a problem). Make your goal clear - to discover all the facts. Seek to create a productive atmosphere.
3. PUT THE INTERVIEWEE AT EASE
There is nothing to be gained at all by coming across as threatening or authoritarian. You need the person’s cooperation. Do everything you can to alleviate anxiety (e.g. choose your interview location carefully).
4. ASK OPEN QUESTIONS
Open questions are ones which cannot be answered by the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or another brief 'closed' answer. e.g. Tell me what happened? Especially at the beginning of the interview you want the person to give you all they know. Later on you can seek clarification about specifics. e.g. Was the driver wearing Personal Protective Clothing? or What colour was the smoke?
5. HAVE NO ASSUMPTIONS
It is easy to have a fixed idea yourself about what happened. This is dangerous because you end up leading the interviewee. You are interested in preventing the same or similar happening again and for that you need to have an open mind so that you can discover accurate information to help your analysis reach the root causes.
6. DO NOT BE JUDGEMENTAL
If the interviewee gets even the slightest hint that you are out to ‘get’ him/her/someone, you have lost their cooperation before you start and the whole interview will be worthless.
Listening is an underrated skill; people are flattered and encouraged when they feel completely listened to. Apart from making sure that you hear ALL the information the interviewee has to give, it helps gain their trust. Make sure too that you indicate by body language etc that you are listening to them. (e.g. a nod, uhuh, eye contact.).
If possible, take someone else with you to act as notetaker so that you can, in fact, give the interviewee your whole attention. Explain that this is not a ‘two-handed’ interview and make sure that you share the notes with the interviewee at the end to give them confidence that they have not been misrepresented.
9. USE DIAGRAMS
People are very different. Some find it easy to put what has happened into words but others who are more visual are able to convey events much more easily by being able to share a diagram or rough sketch with you. You might even simulate like this by moving objects around the table. This sharing and collaborative discussion contributes to the ‘problem solving’ approach which is very productive in interviews.
10. BE COURTEOUS
In this arena, like most others, a good rule is to treat people as you yourself would like to be treated. That way you gain their cooperation and stand the strongest chance of getting to the root of what happened, the whole purpose of your investigation.