Record interviews by phone, Skype or Zoom
Especially in times when public life is almost paralysed and personal contacts are largely avoided, one has to rely on the use of remote interviews .
In principle, the options for remote interviews range from the written version, e.g. by e-mail, to telephone conferences and video conferences, e.g. with Skype or Zoom.
Below you will find information on tools and techniques as well as the best tips and tricks to successfully conduct and record remote interviews.
This article is an excerpt from our eBook Recording, Typing, Analysing - Guide to Conducting Interview & Transcription.
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The five most important tips for remote interviews
- Let the interview partner decide: The choice of tool should be made dependent on the technical circumstances and preferences of the interview partner.
- Simple is beautiful: If you yourself or the interview partner have never used Skype or Zoom, for example, then simpler methods such as the telephone should be used. The more programmes and functions are used, the more sources of error there are.
- No remote interview without a test run: A complete test run including listening to the test recording is important. Some sources of interference (e.g. mobile phone interference) can only be detected during the recording.
- Pay attention to data protection: When recording via a third-party provider (e.g. Skype or Zoom), data is sometimes stored in clouds abroad, which some interview partners do not agree to. All participants should explicitly agree to this or alternatively another variant (e.g. telephone interview) should be chosen.
- Prepare well: It is best to read the eBook available free of charge from abtipper.de for many more helpful hints and test all possible providers and tools!
Table of contents of this article
- Remote interviews: Advantages and disadvantages
- Technical requirements for conducting remote interviews
- Record alandline phone call
- Record aconference call
- Smartphone apps for recording telephone interviews
- RecordGoogle Hangouts
- Showillustrative material online
- Written remote interviews
- Data protection for remote interviews
Remote interviews: Advantages and disadvantages
Classically, the standard in qualitative social research is the personal interview, or the face-to-face interview. This is usually chosen because of its easy accessibility, also in market research or e.g. for students' theses.
Nevertheless, remote interviews are becoming increasingly popular. Even outside of corona times, they offer numerous advantages over classic face-to-face interviews. When choosing a research method, one should be aware of these advantages, but also of the disadvantages:
In principle, remote interviews can certainly be described as a good substitute for the classic face-to-face interviews. Here, too, valid data can be collected and due to the higher variability
in the geographical component, there are considerably greater possibilities in the selection of potential interview partners. However, it is important to have basic technical knowledge in order to conduct the interviews. This aspect will be discussed in more detail in the following chapter.
Technical requirements for conducting remote interviews
Just as with face-to-face interviews on site, there are numerous prerequisites for remote interviews.
The easiest way: in writing or by phone
Basically, a distinction can be made between an interview conducted by telephone and an interview via one of the numerous online conference providers, such as Skype or Zoom. For telephone interviews, all you need is the telephone itself and a way to record the conversation. What exactly needs to be taken into account is explained below. Alternatively, the interview can also be conducted by post or e-mail. This requires little technical know-how.
Online conferences: With computer and headset
The most important prerequisite for conducting a remote interview with an online conferencing tool is, of course, the presence of a computer and the corresponding programme such as Skype or similar.
However, there are two other crucial factors for recording a good interview. The first is the use of a suitable headset or headphones. This is particularly important so that during the interview the sound is not reproduced through the laptop's loudspeakers and an echo effect is created. In addition, the sound quality is usually much better with headphones and distracting ambient noise is blocked out so that you can focus on the conversation. It is advisable to use headphones that also contain a built-in microphone, as the microphones built into the computer usually only offer average recording quality.
Video conferencing: Webcam with sufficient image quality
The second central requirement is the presence of a camera in order to recreate the situation of the face-to-face conversation as best as possible. Almost all laptops already have a webcam with sufficient image quality. If, on the other hand, a desktop PC is used, an external webcam must be purchased. In both cases, the image quality should be so high that you can see the person you are talking to very well. A resolution of at least 1920×1080 pixels (Full HD) and a frame rate of 30 frames per second (FPS) are recommended.
We also advise you to connect the computer directly to the router with a LAN cable for the duration of the interview, as the WLAN quality can fluctuate greatly under certain circumstances and this can have a negative influence on the course of the interview. In general, a stable internet connection is of course a basic requirement if the interview is conducted via the internet.
In addition, it makes sense to always carry out a test run beforehand to check whether the functionality of audio and video technology is given. In addition to the technical aspects already mentioned, the following components should also be taken into account for a remote interview:
- Dress code: Choose the right clothes for the person you are talking to
- Background: If possible, the place for the conversation should be chosen so that you are in front of a neutral background that is not distracting during the conversation. This also means that there should be sufficient lighting. Direct light or shadows should be avoided.
- Avoid disturbances: Preparing for the conversation also includes eliminating possible sources of interference, e.g. by putting the smartphone on silent and not having a window open in the room.
- Eye contact: Even if the interlocutor's face is shown on the screen, you should try to look into the camera as much as possible to convey interest and attention.
Record landline phone call
There is a very simple method for recording remote interviews with an interviewee that does not require the use of computers, software or the internet.
To do this, simply call the interviewee by landline or mobile phone, put your own phone on loudspeaker, place a recording device (dictaphone or mobile phone) next to it and record the conversation.
All commercially available landline and mobile phones already have a built-in loudspeaker so that you can easily set the phone to loud and thus make a recording. The corresponding function can usually be switched on and off by pressing the button with a stylised loudspeaker.
Some older landline telephones may not have such a function. In these cases, the sound without a loudspeaker only from the earpiece is too low for a reasonable recording, which is why the recording option described here is not possible.
Simply place a recording device directly next to the loudspeaker of the telephone and use it to record the conversation. In this case, it is recommended to make the call via the fixed network and use a dictation machine for the recording.
Of course, you can also call with a mobile phone, set it to loud, place another smartphone next to it and use it to record the conversation. However, there is a risk that interference can sometimes occur if the radio waves of the devices overlap and interfere with each other. This interference can be so serious that later transcription and evaluation is made much more difficult. While making the recording, it is not possible to determine with certainty whether there is such interference in the individual case; this can only be found out when listening to the recording. In this case, it is therefore highly recommended to make a test call and a test recording in order to exclude these interfering noises that sometimes occur.
This very simple recording option of remote interviews is particularly suitable for individual interviews where non-verbal signals from the interview partner are less relevant. If this is not the case or if the interviews are group interviews, the method just described is less recommendable.
Record telephone conferences
A telephone conference is quick to set up and easy to implement. Numerous providers can be found on the internet, some of them free of charge. There are many suitable providers with certificates from TÜV or other comparable institutions. We present the best providers below.
A simple landline telephone or mobile phone is sufficient for a conference call. To start the conference call, it must first be registered with a suitable provider. This usually only requires a name and an e-mail address; for providers who charge a fee, additional information such as a billing address is required.
Once the conference call provider has activated the call, you will be assigned a so-called teleconference room. All participants can dial into this virtual room. For this purpose, the participants are provided with a dial-in number and a conference PIN. With these data, everyone can finally dial into the conference, using their telephone or mobile phone.
With many providers, the conference only starts when at least two participants have dialled in. For organisational purposes, it is best if one person takes over the conference management. Depending on the provider, a separate conference leader PIN can also be requested for this person.
The conference leader can also take on the function of moderator, taking on tasks such as opening the conversation and introducing and naming the individual speakers. This also facilitates later speaker attribution during subsequent transcription (see also the separate article on group discussions). The moderator also keeps track of the time, coordinates the speeches and summarises the most important points again at the end of the conference.
If the conference call is recorded, all participants should be informed in advance. Furthermore, it should be agreed who will bear the costs of the conference, the participants, the conference facilitator or the company.
As a provider for a conference call we recommend:
- Costs of 9 cents per minute and subscriber
- Without contract commitment, can also be used without registration
- Simple and clear
- For up to 20 participants
- Web conference possible (screen sharing)
- Moderator PIN possible
- Recording function possible
The uncomplicated provider: With easyAudio, the telephone conference can be started directly. All you have to do is click the "start now" button on the website and you will immediately receive a PIN (usable for 3 days) and a dial-in number. Registration is not necessary, but possible if a conference room is to be booked permanently. This offers the advantage that the PIN is valid indefinitely, the moderator function is activated, a free web conference, i.e. the sharing of screen contents as well as chat functions, is set up and the recording function is activated. All in all, all of the provider's services are easy to use and the conference call can begin quickly and without complications.
- Cost of 9 cents per minute and participant (BusinessMeeting Flex)
- Web conference possible (screen sharing)
- Worldwide dial-in numbers
- For up to 50 participants
- Dial-in with Extra Security PIN
- Free recording function
The professional provider: meetyoo is aimed primarily at businesses and offers various tariffs with the price per minute or per month. Monthly subscriptions can be cancelled monthly. In all tariffs it is possible to control the conference online, share the screen, record the telephone or web conference, plan the conference via Outlook and invite participants to dial in with their computer. On request, conferences with more than 50 participants can also be organised. Meetyoo thus offers all the important functions that are necessary for a conference and can be individually extended with further functions by arrangement.
- Telephone conferences at a fixed price (29.90 euros/month, cancellable monthly)
- Easy and fast online ordering
- For up to 25 participants
- Worldwide dial-in numbers
- Free recording function
The clear and compact provider: SmartConference permanently provides a room for telephone conferences. This room is then available at all times. The access data are sent immediately after the order, the PIN is permanently valid. The tariff also includes a recording function and online conference control. With SmartConference, setting up a conference is quick and easy. The functions are clear and easy to understand.
In addition, there are of course also free providers, such as meetGreen. However, especially in times when these services are used a lot, there may be restrictions or even the discontinuation of services, which has already happened in part during the Corona crisis.
Smartphone apps for recording telephone interviews
Similar measures should be taken for recording telephone interviews as for interviews that are recorded on location. This includes, for example, switching the mobile phone to airplane mode during the recording. As a matter of principle, the interviewer should be informed about the recording and everything concerning data protection should be agreed upon.
There are many apps for recording telephone interviews. We have tested a few and present the best ones here.
For iPhone/ iOS we recommend:
Call Recorder (iOS)
- Download free of charge (in the App Store at (https://apps.apple.com/de/app/anruf-recorder-intcall/id521680097)
- Prepaid credit must be purchased for calls (30 US cents free when installed)
The Call Recorder for iOS devices offers numerous functions, such as a selection of different formats and the automatic deletion function for audio files. Important points can be marked during the call.
The app does not use the regular line of the mobile phone provider when making a call, but establishes a connection to the VoIP server of the app manufacturer. The recordings are saved on the mobile device and can be played back there. In addition, the recording can be sent by e-mail and is transferred to the computer via "iTunes file sharing". Furthermore, the recording can be exported to "Dropbox", "Google Drive" and other services or shared via "WhatsApp".
Both national and international calls are supported, but credit is required for each call, so that the use of the app is associated with further costs. Prices vary depending on location and for international calls.
- Download free of charge (in the App Store at https://apps.apple.com/us/app/tapeacall-call-recorder/id573751328)
- A subscription (29.99 US dollars per year) must be taken out for calls
The TapeACall app for iOS devices is easy to use and offers all the important functions for recording calls professionally. When a subscription is taken out, unlimited calls can be made and recorded. Both incoming and outgoing calls can be recorded. A so-called 3-way telephone call is created between the caller, the called party and the TapeACall service. For this purpose, the app can be opened during the telephone call and the recording can be started. The recordings are then available within a few seconds via link as downloadable MP3 files. In addition, they can be shared via the usual ways (e-mail, WhatsApp, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). The app supports calls worldwide without additional costs. This makes the costs much more manageable compared to the Call Recorder.
This is one of the reasons why we recommend the TapeACall app for recordings with iOS devices. For a one-time recording, however, it can also make sense to use the Call Recorder, as there is no need to take out an annual subscription here, but only to buy individual credit.
For recording WhatsApp calls on iOS devices, the TechSmith Capture app can also be downloaded (at https://apps.apple.com/de/app/techsmith-capture/id1266321056). The third-party provider is free of charge. This can be used to record the screen as well as audio.
For Android we recommend:
Call recording - Cube ACR (Android)
- Free download (in the Play Store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.catalinagroup.callrecorder)
- Contains advertising
- Premium subscription possible without advertising (from 1.98 euros)
Call Recording - Cube ACR is a free app for Android devices. In the standard version, advertising is displayed. For an ad-free version, the premium subscription can be booked. This also offers additional functions, such as saving in several formats, automatic saving and restoring to cloud storage, setting up a PIN lock, marking a recording area by shaking the mobile phone and much more. Even without a premium subscription, the app offers all the necessary functions to record phone calls. In addition to calls via the phone, a variety of services are supported, such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Facebook and WeChat.
Recording can start automatically if a corresponding check mark has been set in the app. Furthermore, recording can also be restricted to certain contacts only and other contacts can be excluded. An additional function is to improve the phone quality by making voices louder.
All in all, the app has a clear and user-friendly design and offers all the functions that are useful for a good quality recording of telephone calls free of charge.
One way to record remote interviews is to record calls or even video calls via Skype.
It is advantageous if all participants are Skype users, but according to Skype this is not necessary. A computer or mobile device with a microphone and loudspeaker as well as an internet or data connection are also required. Skype can be installed free of charge at this link: https://www.skype.com/de/thank-you-skype/.
Skype is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. In addition, Skype can be installed on Android (e.g. in the Google Play Store) and iPhone (e.g. in the App Store) mobile devices.
Skype is very widespread and enables calls around the globe via WLAN or a mobile data connection. In most cases, these are even free of charge. It is easy to use and offers many additional functions, such as a translator function. A purchase therefore also makes sense beyond the recording of interviews.
The recording is cloud-based, so no storage space is used on your own device. What this means for data protection is explained further. In principle, however, each call participant is notified of the start of the recording, so that no recording can happen secretly. If a desktop screen is shared during the interview, this is also recorded.
As soon as a participant stops the recording, ends the call or leaves the group call, the recording is ended and the completed recording is posted in the Skype chat where the call took place. The recording is then available in the chat for 30 days. During this time, the recording can be downloaded and saved locally. A maximum of 24 hours can be recorded, otherwise it is possible to split the call into several files.
In the case of an interview with two people, one person can simply call the other and follow the steps described below to record the call. In the case of a call between several people, it is useful to start a meeting. Skype will generate a link that can be sent or shared with other participants. Then the call can begin. This can also be created for a specific day at a specific time.
This starts the recording:
- During the call, click on the three dots (...) to open further options.
- On the desktop: Start recording click.
- On the mobile device: Tap the circle.
- A banner is displayed informing that the recording is about to start.
This is how the Skype recording is saved:
- In the chat:
On the desktop: On more options click.
On the mobile device: Pause call recording.
- Download and save the recording as an MP4 file:
On the desktop: Select Save as Downloads to save the file in the Downloads folder or select Save as to specify a location.
On the mobile device: Select Save to save the recording in My Recordings.
This is how to share a Skype call recording:
- In the chat:
On the desktop: On more options click.
On the mobile device: Pause call recording.
- Select Forward to share the recording with another
Record Google Hangouts
With Google Hangouts, you can make phone calls and send text messages via WLAN or a mobile data connection.
The prerequisite for this is a Google account, a computer or mobile device with a microphone and loudspeaker, and an internet or data connection. In addition, a chat conversation can be held or a Hangout video call can be started.
In the meantime, the classic Hangouts is being further developed into two products: Hangouts Chats and Hangouts Meet. The changeover is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2020. Hangouts Meet is a tool for video conferencing that can be used on computers and smartphones.
This makes it possible to record the recordings. For this, G-Suite is also required, which can be tested free of charge
How to record with Google Hangouts:
- Activate Google Drive. This is where the recording is saved.
- Enable recording for Meet. If the setting is only to be applied to certain people, combine the users' accounts in an organisational unit or add the people to a configuration group.
- The corresponding setting must be activated by a G Suite administrator (more on this in the following section) so that other people can view it later.
- Course instructors can record a video conference if they are logged into their G Suite account, for example in Gmail. This does not apply to course participants.
In the recording, the active speaker and all presented content are shown. Other windows or notifications are not visible.
The recordings are saved in the organiser's Google Drive folder under "Meet recordings". The organiser and also the person who started the recording, if applicable, will receive an email with a link to the recording. This link is also added to the calendar appointment.
All persons involved are notified when the recording is started or stopped.
Log in to G Suite as an administrator:
- In any web browser, call up the URL admin.google.com.
- Click on Add Account.
- On the login page, enter the email address and password for the administrator account.
A not yet so well known, but very powerful provider of remote interviews is Zoom (www.zoom.us).
The basic functionality is comparable to that of Skype, whereby participants in a conversation do not need their own Zoom account.
As a moderator, after registering once, you can generate a link to a meeting and use it to invite one or more other participants. The meeting can then be held with an audio or video track and the usual functions for sharing one's own screen with others or parallel chats are also available.
Conversations can be recorded via Zoom as explained in the following video:
Zoom is kept simple and self-explanatory and can be operated intuitively; there are corresponding apps for smartphones. Zoom has a detailed help and support area for questions. However, some of the help videos and texts provided there are only available in English.
In several tests, the sound and video quality was good and stable without dropouts, provided of course that all participants had a sufficiently fast internet connection.
There is a free "Basic" version. As a restriction, group discussions are limited to a maximum length of 40 minutes. The connection then disconnects automatically and a new group discussion would have to be started to continue. In the "Pro" account for 13.99 euros per month, there is no such limit.
In the free version, the interview can be saved on the user's own computer. This recording function is very convenient. The only important thing is to make sure that there is enough free storage space on your own computer. Video files in particular can quickly take up several gigabytes of storage space.
Such recording on your own device is not possible if you use Zoom as a moderator via a mobile device. In the paid pro version, storage in the Zoom cloud is possible. The "Pro" account includes 1 GB of storage space, but this is quickly exhausted for video recordings. Additional storage space can be purchased at extra cost.
If only the audio track of a conversation is needed, it can of course also be recorded on a mobile device with a dictation machine next to it.
Zoom has received a lot of attention, especially since the Corona crisis. However, this has also led to some vulnerabilities in data protection being uncovered. According to the company's own information, these have now been rectified - see also further information on this page.
Show illustrative material online
In remote interviews, face-to-face interaction is limited and possible misunderstandings are not immediately visible through non-verbal signals. Good preparation is therefore important.
Relevant background information, e.g. an interview guide, should ideally be exchanged in advance by e-mail. This way the interviewer can print out these documents and prepare well.
During the interview, one can share one's screen with the other person when using video conferencing tools such as Skype or Zoom. This allows the interviewer to see additional materials without having to provide them as a file. It is also possible for the interviewee to share their screen in order to provide their own documents to the interviewer to illustrate their answers.
Written remote interviews
Sometimes a direct conversation by telephone or video is not possible or not desired. This can be the case, for example, if the technical requirements are not met or the interview partner simply wants to avoid the need for a spontaneous answer to questions.
A very classic form of remote interview is the written version, in which the questions are sent to the interviewer and answered in writing. This is possible in the classic way by post or also by e-mail or via a chat tool such as WhatsApp. Questions can then be clarified in another written round.
In some cases, this written variant is also combined with an interview, e.g. when facts or background information are first clarified via a written exchange and then the personal conversation is used to interpret them.
Experience has shown that this type of interview involves a risk of considerable delays in the answers or even a complete break-off of the interview by the interviewee. It is therefore only recommended in specific exceptional cases where the framework conditions dictate this.
Data protection for remote interviews
First of all, the data protection requirements for on-site interviews also apply to remote interviews. The consent form can also be signed digitally, e.g. by e-mail, without any problems.
However, the special feature of remote interviews is that the software used for this purpose is an additional medium that necessarily also has access to the collected data. The confidential information no longer remains exclusively with the interviewer, but is also accessible to the company providing the software. Consequently, an interviewer can never guarantee his or her interlocutor one hundred percent confidential handling of the collected data.
Especially with internet-based providers such as Zoom, there have been repeated reports in recent weeks about lapses in data protection or the passing on of data to other companies (e.g. Facebook). According to the company's own statements, these weaknesses have been remedied in the meantime, see more detailed description here.
Nevertheless, programmes like Skype or Zoom can still be used for remote interviews. However, it is important to point out the separate data protection guidelines of the manufacturers beforehand. Users must agree to these when starting the software anyway, so this is already done if the interlocutor uses the programme for private purposes, for example.
However, it is problematic that with the current providers the recordings are stored for a certain period of time. In addition, these are companies that have their headquarters in the USA and are therefore not subject to the GDPR. However, all of them comply with the EU-US Privacy Shield and the Swiss-US Privacy Shield. In addition, a separate order processing contract that meets the requirements of Article 28 of the GDPR can be concluded with the respective provider to ensure data protection compliance.
If a personal interview is not possible and particularly critical or explosive interview content is to be discussed, then there are also appropriate software providers for this that place particular emphasis on data security. Here we recommend, for example, the conference service provider "DFNConf" developed by the German Research Network, for which, however, membership of a research institution is a mandatory requirement. Other alternatives with encrypted communication and increased focus on data protection are the two tools "Jitsi-Meet" and "Nextcloud Talk".
However, due to the less widespread use of providers, one has to do without many functions here. In these cases, the interview can also be conducted by telephone or in writing, in which case there is no third-party provider where the data can be stored.
All in all, interviews in all common contexts can also be conducted without any problems as a remote interview with the appropriate software. However, it is always important to explicitly point out the applicable data protection guidelines of the respective provider to the interview partner. It may also make sense to conclude a separate order processing agreement with the company providing the software.
Further questions and answers
For the Recording a telephone conversation there are several possibilities:
1) Set the telephone to "loud" and place a Dictaphone next to it for recording.
2) Use a mobile phone app that allows you to record a phone call (e.g. TapeACall (iOs) or Anruf Aufzeichnen (Android)
3) Use a conference call provider with a recording function (e.g. meetyoo)
Recording a phone call is only permitted if the other party agrees.
A Recording a Skype video is easily possible:
- During the call, click on the three dots (...) to open further options.
- On the desktop: Click on Start recording.
- On the mobile device: tap on the circle.
- A banner appears informing you that the recording is starting.
Recording a Skype video is only permitted if the other person agrees to it.
A Recording Zoom is quite simple:
- As a moderator, click on the symbol (circle) at the bottom right to start recording.
- As a participant, recording is only possible if the moderator gives you permission to do so.
A recording of Zoom is only permitted if all participants agree to it.
A written declaration of consent to the Recording an interview is not absolutely necessary. A verbal explanation at the beginning, for example, which is confirmed verbally by the interview partner, is also sufficient.
Especially if the interviews are to be used further, e.g. in the context of a publication, a written agreement is useful. This should clarify exactly what will happen to the data, where it will be stored and further used, and when it will be deleted again.