Plan interview, prepare interview

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Table of contents of this article

Planning interview


What is an interview and what are the types of interviews?

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An interview is a conversation that takes place between an interviewer and an interviewee to gather information or opinions about a particular topic.

In an interview the interviewer asks questions and the interviewee gives answers. Interviews can be used in various contexts and areas, such as journalism, HR or market research. An interview can be conducted in writing as well as orally or audiovisually. The aim of the interview is to gather information or opinions in order to gain a better understanding of a topic or person.

There are different types of interviews that require different techniques and approaches depending on the context and objective. Here are some examples:

  • Structured interview: In a structured interview, predetermined questions are asked which all interview partners must answer. This enables a standardized evaluation and comparability of the answers.
  • Unstructured interview: In contrast to the structured interview, there are no predefined questions in the unstructured interview. Instead, the interviewer can react flexibly to the interview partner's answers and spontaneously ask further questions.
  • Semi-structured interview: Here, some questions are determined in advance, while the interviewer also leaves room for spontaneous questions and extensions.
  • In-depth interview: This type of interview focuses on the interviewee's opinions, views, and attitudes. The interviewer uses open-ended questions to better understand the interviewee's thoughts and emotions.
  • Focus Group Interview: In a focus group interview, a group of people are brought together to share and discuss their opinions and experiences on a particular topic. The interviewer guides the discussion to gain important information.
  • Telephone Interview: A telephone interview is an interview conducted over the telephone. It is often used in market research and recruiting when a face-to-face meeting is not possible or practical.
  • Online interview: Here, the interview is conducted via online platforms such as Skype or Zoom. The online interview offers the possibility to conduct interviews over long distances and to save time and travel costs.

The planning of an interview

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When planning qualitative interviews, a corresponding lead time and buffer times are indispensable. This is especially important because it depends on the interviewee whether and when the interview can take place. For busy people, an interview for a research paper may not have the highest priority, so that such an appointment is often postponed or cancelled.

The following steps are recommended when planning the interviews recommended:

Identifying the need for an interview
Even though in reality it often goes the other way round, the interview partners needed should be derived from the Interest in knowledge result. So before you approach someone, you should think very carefully about why this person in particular is important for your survey and what questions you want to ask.

The ideal interview partner should result from the research interest.

Addressing the interview partner
Once you have defined the ideal profile of an interview partner, you can usually find potential interview partners quickly through a simple internet search.

The easiest way to convince them to participate in the interview is to by telephone. E-mails often lead to delayed reactions, if the right e-mail address can be found at all.

The easiest way to approach the interview partner is by telephone.

A friendly approach by telephone ideally leads to an immediate Making an appointment for the interview. This can be done with the interviewee themselves or through their secretary. Even if you don't know which person is responsible for the topic or don't have an extension, you can be put through with a friendly approach via the switchboard.

When making an appointment it helps to a friendly approach - the appointment The appointment can be made with the person directly or via their The appointment can be made directly with the interviewee or via their secretary.

You should remain persistent and not let yourself be put off. This can be done better if you consider in advance how your counterpart would benefit from the interview. This could be, for example, making the results available. Other topics to be planned are the place and time, the language, the technical equipment, the structure of the content as well as legal issues and data protection, which will be briefly discussed in the following sections.

On site or by phone and internet - where to conduct the interview?

Interview preparation

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With regard to the location, it is important to clarify whether the interview should take place in person or by telephone or video conference. Provided the location is further away, there is actually not much advantage from a face-to-face appointment, as the cost and time involved is high. The quality of the results does not deteriorate, or only slightly, even with a well-planned and conducted telephone or Skype interview.

On the following page you will find a detailed guide to remote interviews, i.e. interviews by e-mail, telephone or Skype.

For on-site appointments, care should definitely be taken to ensure that there is full attention and good acoustics so that the conversation can be recorded without interference. Even if these may seem attractive for a casual conversation, they are generally not suitable for good interviews. Busy places such as cafés or restaurants are generally not suitable for good interviews, because distractions and noise interfere with the conversation and the recording.

Attention: High noise level: Busy places are generally not not suitable for good interviews.

The interviewee's place of residence or work is well suited, as the interviewees are usually more open and relaxed at a Familiar place are usually more open and relaxed and, in case of doubt, can also clarify questions that remain unanswered immediately, for example with a short search in the documents available on site.

In a familiar environment, the the interviewees are more open and more relaxed.

During a longer conversation, it makes sense to provide drinks and snacks. It should be noted, however, that biscuits or the like can lead to disturbing and eating noises and thus disrupt the recording

In the case of remote interviews, it is always advisable to make a Test recording make a recording. It can always happen that background noises overlay what is being said and the interviewee's words are thus not understandable. A number of apps for recording are recommended for this purpose. Detailed information on this can be found on the following page on Remote interviews.

Duration of the interview / How long to conduct an interview?

Interview duration

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As a basic rule, almost any topic can be discussed in a well-structured and focused interview within 1 - 1.5 hours time. A longer duration often leads to a loss of concentration on the part of both the interviewee and the interviewer and consequently aspects are discussed that no longer fit the original topic.

For a well-structured interview 1 - 1.5 hours should be planned - for for a well-structured interview - for longer interviews concentration can quickly can quickly diminish.

Above all, it is important that the time frame is discussed in advance, i.e. that it is clear from the outset how much time the interview partner has. The individual questions should then be divided up among the available minutes and this schedule should be followed closely, otherwise there may still be questions open at the end of the time. However, this does not apply to a little or partially structured interview.

The interviewer should be on site well in advance and have already prepared and tested the recording before the interview.

As a rough guide, the following can be 3-4 open questions in 10 minutes discuss. So if you have 10 open questions, you should plan about half an hour for this. If there is less time available, a thematic narrowing down should take place. Answering closed questions takes correspondingly less time.

More time should be planned for open questions more time than for closed questions closed questions - in 10 minutes about 3-4 open questions can be can be clarified.

If there are several interviews in a row, there should be a sufficient time window between the individual interviews, as the actual time of the interviews is often difficult to calculate.

As a general rule, you should bring some material with you for each on-site interview and also double-check that you have everything with you before the appointment.

Interview material

  • Interview guide
  • Sufficient paper (for notes and sketches)
  • Info sheet with information about the background and purpose of the interview
  • Writing utensil (pencil, biros)
  • Recording device
  • Spare batteries or power cable
  • Camera
  • Visual aids (if needed)

Language: In which language do you conduct the interview?

Language Interview

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If the interviewer and interviewee speak different languages, various factors play a role in selecting them for the interview.

The interviewee should be able to speak in his Mother tongue in order to be able to answer eloquently and spontaneously. Ideally, the language should also correspond to the language of the evaluation (e.g. the Master's thesis). In this way, statements can be adopted directly for further processing and no longer need to be translated.

The easiest way to interviews are conducted in one's own native language - Ideally, this should also be the the language of the evaluation.

Recordings with strong Dialect may make later transcription and evaluation considerably more difficult. With such speakers, it is therefore recommended that at the beginning and also during the interview, it is pointed out in a friendly manner that the answers should be given in High German if possible. If individual words are not understandable because of dialect or pronunciation (e.g. mumbling), it is advisable to ask immediately, as otherwise this cannot usually be clarified later during the transcription or evaluation.

Dialect can make transcription and analysis - if individual words are individual words are not understood, should be asked immediately. should be asked immediately.

Typically, participants in a conversation unconsciously imitate the behaviour of the other person. If the interviewee speaks particularly fast, mumbled or unclear, the interviewer should in return speak particularly slowly, clearly and distinctly. This usually automatically improves the interviewee's comprehensibility.

If the interview contains certain Technical terms or foreign words that the interviewee may not be immediately familiar with, it is advisable to define them in advance.

It is worthwhile to use technical foreign words before the interview research and define them before the define them - if the interview is foreign language, the important vocabulary should also be should also be prepared.

Interviews in a foreign language require special preparation: questions, possible technical terms and important vocabulary should be researched and prepared beforehand. Basically, you should honestly assess yourself in advance whether your own language skills are sufficient to understand any subtleties and to react to spontaneous developments in the conversation.

Group interview or individual interview?

Interview guide

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When deciding between group and individual interviews, it often seems attractive at first glance that with a group several people can be interviewed at the same time and thus save time. However, it should be noted that individual interviews are usually much more goal-oriented, structured and therefore better suited for evaluation. Group interviews often develop a Momentumthat makes the interview deviate from a previously planned framework. Furthermore, certain people often take on a larger share of the speaking at the expense of other, more reserved participants.

Individual interviews are often more structured than group interviews - Group interviews usually develop develop a momentum of their own.

Group interviews are always particularly suitable when this momentum and discussion among the participants is desired and central to the research interest.

Group interviews are in any case more time-consuming, which should be taken into account in the planning. If there are several people, special attention should be paid to the Recording technology to be paid to the interviewer. Here, a microphone or mobile phone is usually not sufficient as a recording device, but several recording devices must be placed as close as possible to the participants.

A good recording technique is recording technique is particularly important.

In group discussions, it is also quite common for individual participants to spontaneously change their seats, sketch something on a flipchart or the like, or even speak while standing. The recording technology should also be able to capture such special cases.

If it is important for the later evaluation to allocate speakers, then if there are several speakers, a speaker's protocol is indispensable. Video recording or a speaker protocol is indispensable. In the latter, it is recorded in a simple table which person speaks (via person abbreviations) at which time, so that this can be correctly assigned in the later transcription. Often, the interviewees are asked at the beginning of the interview to state their name before each contribution. Experience shows, however, that this is usually not followed through to the end of the interview.

Video recordings are good for group interviews - These facilitate, among other things, the speaker assignment during transcription.

During the conversation, a strict Moderation is crucial for the insights to be gained. The moderator must structure the discussion along the guideline and prevent digressions to other topics. If interesting discussions arise among the participants, the moderator should also be able to withdraw from the discussion in order not to stop the momentum of such a discussion. In principle, the participants usually appreciate it when the moderator makes clear announcements on the organisational cornerstones of the discussion (e.g. breaks) and does not choose a lengthy consensual finding process for this.

In the case of group discussions, a moderator should be appointed to the discussion and maintain the structure. and maintains the structure.

When composing the participants of the group discussion, it is advisable that they represent as many different opinions and statements as possible. This results in exciting discussions that can pointedly contrast the opposing arguments.

If the participants do not yet know each other, a round of introductions is recommended. In any case, a detailed introduction is recommended for a group discussion. IntroductionThis sets the framework for the following discussion.

To set the framework for a group discussion framework for a group discussion, it is an introduction.

If you would like us to transcribe a group discussion, you can find more information about transcribing group discussions here.


Advantages and disadvantages of group discussions


  • More relaxed atmosphere, thus higher commitment
  • Greater variety of topics
  • Longer duration (opinions and backgrounds can be better captured)
  • Different opinions
  • Cost and time savings by combining several interview partners
  • Group interactions provide new insights and stimulate memories


  • Only limited number of questions possible by interview leader
  • Individual participants can dominate group
  • Participants can influence each other
  • Dynamics of the conversation make notes difficult
  • Risk of digression from the topic
  • Evaluation is more time-consuming (because, for example, speaker allocation is often not very simple).

Develop and structure interview questions

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A good structure of a questionnaire can only be touched upon in this guide. Since it plays a central role in every interview, it is advisable to study this topic in depth. There is a whole range of relevant literature on this subject.

A distinction is made between interviews with different structures

1. Little-structured interview

  • Open questions
  • Additional questions, changes to the wording of a question and follow-up questions allowed
  • Used mainly at the beginning of an investigation to identify correlations
  • Also called an in-depth or intensive interview
  • Goes into great depth and breadth, very free conversation
  • Mostly only rudimentary guide and some thematic groups
  • High degree of freedom for researchers, can respond individually to respondents

Advantage: High gain in knowledge, especially detailed knowledge, more room for own formulation, goes more in depth

Disadvantage: Interviewer must be experienced and knowledgeable, results cannot be standardised in the end.

2. semi-structured interview

  • Questions are prepared and formulated, but order remains open
  • Interview guide is used
  • Spontaneous questions or reactions to topics are also possible

Advantage: Results are more comparable

Disadvantage: Here, too, experience of the interviewer is necessary, interviewer has influence on the survey

3. highly structured interview

  • Closed questions with several answer options (or yes/no selection)
  • The content, number, order and wording of the questions are precisely defined
  • In the case of several categories, no overlapping of answers and positive and negative answer options in balance
  • Use mostly in the final stage of the investigation
  • Asymmetrical communication structure, interviewer is not allowed to respond to follow-up questions from the interviewee, very far removed from normal conversation
  • Methodical processing of the questionnaire
  • The content, number, order and wording of the questions are precisely defined

Advantages: Very good comparability of results, interviewer does not need to be trained, the interview can also be conducted by someone else, high standardisation and thus good comparability of data, many people can be interviewed in a short time.

Disadvantage: Exact and careful procedure is important, little room for error or deviation. Additional information may be lost due to predetermined answers.

Not only the content of the questions is important, but also how they are formulated. A distinction is made between open ("How did you feel in the situation at the time?") and closed ("Are you for or against it?") questions. Especially for open questions, the interview is well suited as a survey method. If you are mainly looking for answers to closed questions or want to ask pure facts, a questionnaire is often sufficient for this, an interview is then not necessary at all.

Open questions are particularly well for an interview - closed questions questions can also be answered via a can also be answered via a questionnaire.

With open questions, answers are sometimes difficult to predict, so more frequent follow-up and clarification is necessary. Open questions are usually asked as W-question (narrative-generating question) intended to prompt the interviewee into a longer monologue.

W-questions encourage the interviewee to give more detailed answers.


Open questionsClosed questions
The respondent must rememberThe respondent must recognise something
Fewer answersMore answers
The interviewee thinks intensively about himselfPossible suggestive effect
Higher engagement and interest of the respondent, as the situation is more conversation-likeHigher uniformity of answers, thus better comparability
Goal: Exploration of the problem areaGoal: Testing the hypotheses

The opening of the interview is particularly important as it lays the foundation for the rest of the conversation. The introduction should be designed and practised in advance. A good interview begins by establishing a Open and friendly atmospheree.g. through small talk. At the beginning, the interviewee's willingness to participate in the interview should be acknowledged and the general topic of the research explained. Information on data protection should also be given right at the beginning. Facts to be asked (age, education, etc.) should be asked at the end, if at all, or better put in a separate questionnaire.

An open and friendly atmosphere promises a good start of the conversation.

The decisive and possibly controversial questions should not be asked right at the beginning, but rather start with unproblematic questions. This gives the interviewee the opportunity to get used to the situation. One should also bear in mind that the (theoretical) preliminary considerations are unknown to the interviewee. The questions should therefore be formulated as simply and less complex as possible. It helps to do this, Mock interviews to conduct mock interviews in which you can check how questions are received, what misunderstandings arise and to get used to the interview situation yourself.

Questions should be formulated as simply and be formulated in a less complex way - Mock interviews help with preparation.

The questionnaire provides the structure of the interview. The interviewer should therefore know all the questions from it by heart. This also enables him/her to jump between individual questions depending on the course of the interview and thus not to be too Natural conversation situation not be too much affected by the given structure. Short notes on the questions answered help in formulating follow-up questions. A complete transcript during the interview is usually very disruptive, time-consuming and not helpful; this is then done by the transcription.

The questions should be learned by heart by heart - this helps to create a natural conversation situation.

In addition, there are the following practical tips on how to conduct a good conversation. practical tips:

  • Do not ask suggestive questions ("Do you agree with me that...?")
  • Restraint and letting the interviewee talk, not being afraid of pauses in the conversation.
  • No judging or commenting on the statements, but signal attention through smaller signals such as nodding of the head or sounds of acknowledgement
  • Let the other person finish
  • Do not work through the guide chronologically, but pay attention to the natural course of the conversation.

It also makes sense to provide the guide or at least its questions to the interviewee in advance so that he or she can prepare for the questions.

Typical beginner mistakes

  • Too frequent enquiries and thus dominating communication style
  • Too hesitant to ask
  • Suggestive questions and guidelines
  • Too many evaluative or commentary statements
  • Problems with letting the other person talk and listening
  • Dogmatic adherence to the discussion guide
  • Questions are asked twice

Interviews and data protection

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At the latest through the discussions on the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the topic of data protection has gained increased importance and attention.

The most important thing here is that the respondent is informed transparently and completely about the purpose of the survey and the further use of the data. In the best case, this information should be set out in writing and handed over. The Consent of the interviewee should be obtained before the interview, otherwise there is a risk that the results may not be used.

In particular, the interviewee should be informed how the interview will be recorded and stored, whether the statements will be used anonymously or with plain names, and whether the interview will be published in whole or in part, e.g. in the Appendix of the thesis.

Even before the interview the interviewee should be informed about informed about the purpose and consent for the consent for further processing be obtained.

A data protection agreement should contain the following information:

  • Name of the respondent
  • Details of the interview guide
  • Purpose of the work, intended use of the data
  • Consent to the use of the (possibly anonymised) data for the intended purpose
  • Type of anonymisation of the data and care regarding data security
  • Recording type
  • How the data is passed on (e.g. to university)
  • Place and duration of storage

The interlocutor should explicitly agree to the handling of this data, either in writing by signature or verbally at the beginning of the recording.

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Further questions and answers

✅ How should you plan and prepare for an interview?

The following points should be made for a successful plan and prepare and prepare and discuss with the interviewee:
- location of the interview (in person, by phone, via Skype or Zoom)
- duration of the interview
- language of the interview
- individual or group interview (in case of several interviewees)
- Interview guide
- Data protection

✅ Should an interview be conducted on site or over the phone/internet?

If Conducting an interview wants to and this is possible, then a personal meeting for an interview is helpful in order to also hear non-verbal statements.

In principle, however, the knowledge gained from an interview via telephone or internet is almost as good as that gained from a face-to-face interview. However, it is important to follow a few tips for the success of such interviews. Remote interviews.

✅ How long should an interview take?

As a basic rule, almost any topic can be discussed in a well-structured and focused interview within 1 - 1.5 hours.

A longer duration often leads to a loss of concentration on the part of both the interviewee and the interviewer and consequently aspects are discussed that no longer fit the original topic. In order not to digress, it is recommended to use a Interview guide.

✅ What data protection must one observe during an interview?

The most important rule on data protection in an interview is to discuss the recording, storage, further use, publication and deletion of the data and content in a transparent way.

A corresponding data protection agreement should contain:
- Name of the interviewee
- Details of the interviewer
- Purpose of the work, intended use of the data
- Consent to use the (possibly anonymised) data for the intended purpose
- Type of anonymisation of the data and care regarding data security
- Type of recording
- Way of passing on the data (e.g. to university)
- Place and duration of storage

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