Written by: Tarushi Mohan
As a researcher, your first interview can be both exciting and daunting. Looking back at my own experience, I remember preparing for an interview with middle-aged fitness enthusiasts shortly after graduating from college. One of my biggest concerns was whether they would take me seriously, considering their age and my lack of experience. However, I received some valuable advice that I still cherish to this day. Someone told me, "They don't know how old you are or how experienced you are. It's up to you to make them believe in your capabilities. Be clear in your head about how you want this interview to go, and you'll do great."
This advice resonated with me, and I realized the importance of projecting confidence and professionalism regardless of my age or experience level. So, I want to share this valuable insight with any new researcher who may be grappling with similar concerns. Remember that your participants do not have prior knowledge of your background, so it's essential to create a positive impression based on your conduct and expertise.
Here are a few tips to help you excel in your first participant interview:
- Establish a professional demeanor: Dress appropriately and maintain a confident posture during the interview. Your appearance and body language can contribute to the impression of competence and seriousness.
- Understand your research topic: Thoroughly research the topic and familiarize yourself with any relevant literature. This will enhance your credibility and enable you to ask informed questions.
- Practice active listening: Demonstrate genuine interest in your participants' responses. Maintain eye contact, nod to show understanding, and ask clarifying questions to delve deeper into their thoughts.
- Treat participants with respect: Regardless of their age or background, approach every participant with respect, empathy, and an open mind. Show that you value their insights and experiences.
- Build rapport and establish trust: Instead of diving straight into the questionnaire, spend a few minutes talking to your participant and make sure they are comfortable. Explain the purpose of your research and assure them of confidentiality and anonymity, if required.
- Take notes or record the conversation: Recording the conversation is easier than taking notes. Have your recording software and devices set up in advance. Be ethical and take permission from the participant before recording them, explaining why you need to do so.
- Be adaptable: While it's important to have a structured interview plan, be flexible in your approach. Allow the conversation to flow naturally, adapting your questions based on the participant's responses to explore new avenues.
- Respect your participant’s time: Respecting participants' commitment and time is crucial during the interview process. While it's important to gather all the necessary information, it's equally essential to be mindful of their schedules and ensure you stay within the agreed-upon time frame.
- Express gratitude: Remember to thank your participants for their time and willingness to share their insights. Expressing appreciation will leave a positive impression and encourage their continued participation.
- Reflect and learn: After the interview, take time to reflect on your performance. Identify areas where you excelled and areas for improvement. This reflection will contribute to your growth as a researcher.
Remember, your first participant interview is a stepping stone in your research journey. Embrace the opportunity to learn, grow, and refine your skills. With each interview, you'll gain more experience and confidence, setting the stage for success in future research endeavors.
Cover photo by: Julia M Cameron