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Interviewing Tips for Non-Profit Organizations: The Role of The Interviewer

The non-profit arena is primarily about human services and human interaction.  In many organizations, there is a need to “interview” people we serve to understand their needs and wants.  Whether as an informal conversation to obtain information or as a more structured dialogue for assessment, in all of these interviews, there were at least two participants:  the interviewer (you) and the person being interviewed.  While there may also be a translator or assistant present, each interview has these two primary participants.  Together, the roles of these two people – you and the client – form the foundation of an entire process.

 The client is essentially a volunteer, sharing their time and their feedback so that we can effectively use the resources available to meet their needs or measure the effectiveness of the service system and make improvements to it.  Recognizing the client’s role and appreciating the gift of their participation is important for making this a positive and rewarding experience.  It will also help create an atmosphere in which the client feels comfortable being honest.  Without client participation, the information-gathering does not happen.

 The interviewer, on the other hand, is often a paid fact-finder.  Your job is complex and critical and impacts the clients’ lives and the overall service system.  The information that you collect is compiled and analyzed.  Recommendations are made.  Services are provided.  System changes are made based on the information you record.  If this information is not accurate, if it is not based on honest client feedback, the entire process is polluted.  As the saying goes “garbage in, garbage out”. 

 As a fact-finder and interviewer, inference should never be used.  If the individual you are interviewing cannot answer the question, it is the interviewer’s job to provide them with neutral support – re-wording or explanations, etc. Leading questions or phrasing should never be used. If an individual cannot answer a question or if they are confused, even after re-wording, skip the question – an interviewer can not “guess” what the person’s answer may be, even if the individual being interviewed may have hinted at his/her feeling on the subject.   

Posted in Business Development, Market Research, Organizational Change, Quality Improvement.

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