Obtaining interviews

There is evidence to indicate that experienced interviewers are better able to obtain interviews than inexperienced interviewers. This is important, since the higher the percentage of non-respondents in a survey, the greater the probability that some bias will be introduced by the fact that non-respondents are different in some relevant way to those who do respond.

For example, in a survey about drinking habits those most likely to be interviewed are most likely to be found at home, and yet the very fact of their being at home means that they differ in important ways from those who are out drinking!_

Although obtaining co-operation from respondents is thought to be becoming harder, it is still true to say that on most consumer-type surveys skilled interviewers can obtain response rates of 80 per cent or better. Response rates such as these obviously minimize the potential errors that might be introduced by non-response bias.

In general, industrial, trade and executive interviews are harder to obtain because the respondent is being interviewed in his or her role as a business person and there is a need to secure their co-operation using working time. In obtaining industrial and executive interviews, it is usual for an appointment to be made by telephone and this may be preceded by an explanatory letter or e-mail. When the interviewer keeps the appointment he or she should be provided with an 'authority letter' which gives the respondent a telephone number to check on the interviewer's credentials. In practice this opportunity is rarely taken up, but it is too minor a detail over which to lose a valuable interview if such letters have not been provided.

In certain kinds of highly specialist or technical interviewing it may be necessary for the interviewer to have appropriate educational qualifications, or the ability to absorb knowledge relevant to the interview, in order to comprehend the answers and be able to frame appropriate supplementary questions.

There is the danger, however, that if the interviewer is too much of a specialist then his or her expertise on the subject will become evident to the respondent and may inhibit replies. If the interviewer is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the subject the opposite danger exists: that it is a waste of time talking with an interviewer who obviously does not understand the subject, and therefore asks inappropriate questions to which incomprehensible replies are given. In general, the industrial trade or executive respondent should perceive the interviewer as being an informed and intelligent person fully competent to explore the subject of the interview and to comprehend the replies, but leaving the respondent feeling the dominant partner to the interchange.

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