Interview tips

Interview Tips

  • Clarify the objective and length of the interview1. Do not hesitate to provide the number of respondents to be interviewed, or the name of a sound organisation/person already interviewed – if not anonymised- so that the person feels informed and trustful.
  • If you got a recommendation to contact that person, mention: “Mr. XY recommended to contact you as an expert for XX”.
  • Refer to the interviewee as an expert. Valuing his/her expertise is always appreciated.
  • Explain, how and why the interview is beneficial to the interviewee (for example because he/she can have impact on EU policies, or because we provide data transparency that is beneficial for everyone).

General Tips:
  • Choose a setting with little distraction. Avoid loud lights or noises.
  • Control your tone of voice and language.
  • Talk less, listen more.
  • Check the interview time regularly. Do not spend all your time just on one topic.
  • Use open-ended questions so that the respondent can elaborate his/her answer.
  • Limit each question to one single idea to avoid confusion.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. If you have not understood the response, ask to reformulate or clarify.
  • Focus on the main points of your interview to get as much input as possible. Make sure that an interviewee does not stray too far. If he/she does, kindly redirect his/her attention to the question.
  • If the interviewee answers with a long monologue, summarize his/her key points with your own words, to ensure you understood them.
  • You may use data gathered during previous interviews to kick-start the questions. On the other hand, avoid biasing the interview responses or answering questions for the respondent. Do not pass judgements nor assume answers. Remain as neutral as possible. If you realize that the interviewee does not want to talk about a topic, make him/ her comment on existing results, instead of getting no information at all.
  • You might use an interview to double check observations from previous discussions. He/she may clarify some points better than others have.
  • Be prepared to answer questions - based on the input of project managers - such as: Why should I answer these questions? (The answer to this question should be in the introduction email.) Will you fund us?
Start of Interview:
  • Is it okay for you if I record this interview? The recording will enable me to use your exact words, and will only be heard by me. The agreement of the person should be recorded or provided by email before the interview.
  • May your statement be used publicly or should it be kept anonymous? You can offer here different grades of anonymity (personal/ company/ category of interviewee).
  • Explain clearly how the information will be used. Very often, we put it in a database so that a connection to the interviewee is not possible anymore. It is reassuring to point that out.
End of Interview:
  • If you have time, summarise the points and ask the respondent if the summary is correct.
  • Would you like to draw my attention to any other element?
  • Are there helpful links/references/websites you would suggest?
  • Would you recommend to interview anybody else? Could you provide us with a direct contact to him/her?
  • Do you have questions concerning the project or the data treatment?
  • Present the next steps e.g. the publication date of the report or database update, workshops organised.
After the interview:
  • eclareon recommends sending the interview transcript for information.
    • This is a strong recommendation even if the person’s testimony is anonymous and summarised with others’ testimonies.
    • This is an obligation if the person is quoted with his/her name or the name of company. If you want to use a specific quote from somebody with his name/company, send the quote and ask for approval.
  • You can ask one-two clarification questions via e-mail if crucial points turn out to be unclear.
  • Feel free to ask for revisions or comments if something is incorrect. Include a sentence in your email saying that if you don’t receive a response until [date], you will assume that he/she agrees with the transcript.
  • No one size fits all: In Spain, for example, experts can be difficult to interview and when you send them the interview transcripts, experts tend to not answer anymore.
Next steps:
  • Please send the final report, if you promised to, or information regarding project, as a follow-up. This could ease contacting them again for future interviews.
  • Offer to present outcomes of interviews in a later call. This takes time, but can be pure gold to build a national network – especially when you might have to talk to the person on a regular basis.
Recording tool recommended:
  • On PC: Free Sound Recorder (free). It can be used when conducting interview via phone with hands-free mode on.
  • If the expert or the expert’s company has been identified by the team as a potential great partner for eclearon, mention eclareon’s key strengths, to open room for future cooperation, e.g.:
    • our network in the 27 EU Member States,
    • our cooperation with the European Commission (depending on the area of interest of the person) on:
      • auctioning (AURES & ARES),
      • EU semester,
      • health and safety requirements for wind (Wind Harmony)
      • obstacles to renewable energy projects (Renewables Networking Platform).

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