Preparing for Stakeholder Interviews

The specific roles of interviewers and note-takers can vary from interview to interview. Sometimes, the interviewer may want note-takers to remain silent during an interview, only interrupting if some specific piece of information needs clarification. Other times, the leader may want note-takers to take a more active role and even ask follow-up questions in addition to clarification questions. The interviewer may take notes during the interview or may concentrate solely on asking questions.

Some interviewers may even develop signals, such as setting down a pen or folding arms over the chest, to indicate to note-takers that an interviewee’s answer has strayed off-topic and does not need to be recorded. Other lead interviewers may want note-takers to capture everything, even if it seems to be off-topic.

Because of these variances, it is critically important for the entire interview team to meet before the interview and clearly outline expectations and responsibilities. At this meeting, it should be determined exactly who is taking notes as well as who is the primary note-taker. Additionally, the interviewer should make clear exactly who is responsible for asking questions, either as follow-ups or clarifications. If he or she wants note-takers to ask questions, that procedure should be established as well. The interviewer should also clearly define any cues or signals he or she will use during the interview to indicate off-topic information that note-takers don’t need to capture and explain the procedure for how the team will come back together after the day's interviews to compile the final record.

Note that this "meeting" may be very informal in nature. It may take place in the lobby of the hotel, before the interview team leaves to conduct the day's interviews. It may also take place in the car on the way over to the interviews. Regardless of how this meeting takes place, it is very important that everybody involved in the interview process has a clear understanding of their specific roles and responsibilities. Additionally, be sure that you have read through and committed to memory the entire SIG. Understanding how the various items relate to the systemic factors is critical for interviewers to ensure that they ask the correct questions and for note-takers to ensure that they take good notes.