Interviewing is defined as a type of oral communication between two parties (interviewer and interviewee), in which there is a serious purpose, structure, control, and balance (Adler & Rodman, 2006). The spoken, face-to-face interaction allows for immediate follow-up on important topics for discussion. It also gives both parties the opportunity to send and receive information through nonverbal messages (facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and so on). While each party may have one or more participants, the interview process always involves an exchange of information between an interviewer and an interviewee.
Interviewing differs from other forms of dyadic communication such as conversations and dialogues in that it has a serious purpose other than social interaction. This requires the participants to follow a certain structure to achieve the goal of communication (e.g., determining how to begin or end the interview and the important points to discuss). While communicators may ramble on without direction in a casual conversation, the interviewer should have control over where the conversation is going and allow the interviewee to talk more and thus provide more information.
Roles and Responsibilities of Interviewee and Interviewer
The participants of the interview process have specific roles and responsibilities to ensure the success of the interview. The following are some of these roles and responsibilities (Adler & Rodman, 2006).
The interviewer plays a crucial role in obtaining information from the interviewee. In order to have a successful interview, the interviewer must determine the main goal or purpose of the interview, develop questions according to this purpose, and arrange a proper setting for the interview.
- Identify the Purpose. The interviewer must identify what needs to be achieved in the interview and what specific topics to discuss to achieve this purpose. This way, deviation from the goal is prevented and participants do not lose the main objective of the interview. In an information-gathering interview, for instance, it is important to identify the purpose. If your main purpose of interviewing successful people in your community is to learn about their experiences, you may narrow this down by identifying specific topics that are related to your main purpose, particularly those that interest you the most (e.g., learn about their daily habits and routines, the struggles they have to overcome to achieve their accomplishments, their secrets to success, etc.).
- Prepare Questions. The quality of the questions in an interview determines the kind of responses, or the quality of information gathered, and therefore the general effectiveness of the interview. An experienced interviewer prepares questions that include all the topics required to accomplish the purpose of the interview and presents these questions in the most effective manner.
- Arrange the Setting. The time and place of the interview are two factors that contribute to the effectiveness of the interview. The time of the interview must be convenient for both parties and there should be no conflict of schedules. The place should be appropriate to the type of interview to be conducted (e.g., formal, casual, requires privacy). The place must also be convenient and free from distractions.
While face-to-face interview is the most common, it is possible for an interviewer to conduct a telephone interview, such as when an employer wants to do a preliminary screening of the candidate.
While the interviewer plans the schedule and setting, develops the questions, and controls the direction of the interview, the interviewee also has some roles and responsibilities. These include identifying the objectives of both the interviewer, identifying one’s own objectives and preparing for answers to possible questions.
- Identify the interviewer’s objectives. Identifying the interviewer’s objectives helps the interviewee achieve his or her own objective. In a job interview, for example, the goal of the interviewer is to choose the best candidate for employment. Knowing what kind of company you are planning to work for by doing research on the organization’s mission and vision, history, products, or services; or asking someone who has experienced working for the company may help you determine the qualities they are looking for in an applicant. Compare your qualifications to the requirements of the job.
- Identify own objectives. As an interviewee, it is also important to think about one’s own objectives. For instance, if you are being interviewed for a research project, you may take note of the interviewer’s manner of asking questions for when it is your turn to conduct your own interviews in the future. In an employment interview, you may also want to learn about important information the interviewer would most likely not disclose, to determine whether you are a good fit for the company (e.g., the culture of the organization, the challenges and benefits of working in the field, opportunities for growth, etc.).
- Prepare answers to possible questions. Prepare responses that would align to both, the interviewer’s and your objectives. Practice answering possible questions in a spontaneous manner to avoid sounding rehearsed. Project a positive image of yourself by communicating your skills and qualifications confidently. It is also important to prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer.