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  EUROPA > European Commission > EuropeAid > Evaluation > Methodology > Evaluation tools > Interview
Last updated: 02/05/2005



How is the interview carried out?

How is the interview prepared?
How is the interview conducted?

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Stage 1: establish a rapport

The interview is easy to conduct but its findings and value vary greatly with the way it is conducted.

The evaluator's duty
  • To be aware of and respect local habits and customs (such as rules of politeness, silences, wording of questions, time devoted to conversation prior to core questions, etc.)
  • To anticipate any language difficulties (codes, interpreter's competence, meaning of terms such as "development", etc.)
  • To adjust himself/herself to the interviewee, his/her role and his/her hierarchical rank in the institution (for example, the evaluator may be asked not to reveal some information)
  • To take into account the interviewee's material, social and hierarchical environment which may greatly influence his/her attitude
  • To explain the purpose of the interview, how the respondents have been chosen, and the intended use of the information
  • To establish (and sometimes to negotiate) the rules, such as the interview's length, the recording of the interview, etc.
  • To inform the interviewee at the start whether his answers will be used anonymously
  • To ensure that the interviewee has understood the aims of the interview and is willing to respond

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Stage 2: Adjust the respondent's answers to the interview subject

The evaluator must adjust to his interlocutor's role and hierarchical rank in the institution. As a consequence, he/she must be aware of the specificities of the respondent's answers, such as:

  • The way he/she understands the questions and deals with them
  • The possible difficulty in expressing points of view, or criticisms
  • Ideas he/she might want to point out with the evaluator's mediation
  • Considering the evaluator as an auditor

The evaluator must also adjust to the interlocutor's attitude: his/her personal perspective, points of interest not planned in the interview guide, etc.
As a consequence, the evaluator's flexibility is the key to successful data collection in an interview. During the interview, however, he/she must control its progress by staying within the bounds of the subject and avoiding dwelling too much on one topic.


Stage 3: follow the interview guide and deepen the questioning

Flexibility and control are two elementary rules in an interview. The respondent's information is being analysed simultaneously through the evaluator's capacity to listen. Thus, the evaluator should not express himself/herself in a way which is detrimental to the interview, nor let the interviewee talk without limit. In practice, the evaluator's ability to react should provide him/her a balance between flexibility and control.

Three types of reactions

  • Contradiction (the evaluator highlights the respondent's contradictions or expresses the contrary views of other respondents, whose identity may have to be concealed)
  • Notification (the evaluator informs the respondent that he/she is about to address a new theme or a new question)
  • Clarification (the evaluator asks the respondent to develop a specific point)
Types of clarification
Questions Repeat verbatim the respondent' s comments in the interrogative form
Repetition Return to items which have already been discussed
Interpretation Summarise the content of what has been said, check its interpretation with the respondent (and correct it, if necessary), and move on to the next point

Intervene directly in the interview
Although the interview guide provides a useful structure for the interview, the evaluator must be free to generate and develop questions beyond it.
Making direct observations during the interview enables the evaluator to collect specific information about the respondent's attitude, behaviour and customs, and / or about the people around them. With these observations, the evaluator can detect discrepancies between the respondents' attitude and their words.

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The nature of the collected information
The evaluator must distinguish reliable facts from points of view, personal analyses and opinions. To do so, he/she should press the respondent to support his/her allegations with facts or actual examples which the evaluator can check, and which reinforce the respondent's comments.

Avoid asking difficult questions
During an interview, questions should be answerable and should avoid discouraging respondents. Thus, interviewees should be spared from having to provide information stemming from archives or voluminous report.

Control the information
In an interview, the first level of control occurs with the triangulation of questions. This methodology is based on the principle that three different sources are needed to validate the reliability of the information. Triangulation is used in the interview in two ways:

  • In interviews, the evaluator asks systematic and similar questions to at least three different respondents. Prior to this triangulation, the information is not considered to be reliable.
  • In a single interview with one respondent, the evaluator asks a question in three different ways, in order to check the information and observe the possible fluctuation in the respondent's analyses and interpretations of an event.


Stage 4: Conclude the interview

Conclude the interview
The evaluator should close the interview with positive reflections or an open conversation, and maintain a polite approach. He/She should also decide whether another appointment with the respondent is necessary.

Keep track of all the information
The evaluator should read his notes shortly after the interview, structure them and add, if necessary, non-verbal details such as the respondent's behaviour, trouble, silences, interruptions, his relationship with him, the atmosphere, and especially the respondent's suggestion of other people to be interviewed (who will have to be contacted) and read the specified documentation, etc.
These elements are invaluable; they are not detectable in audio tapes, nor short notes. Thus, the evaluator's impressions at the end of the interview must be considered a valid source of information.

Protect the confidentiality of the interview
If the respondent's willingness to respond depends on the evaluator's assurance of confidentiality, this principle must be respected, along with respect for the respondent's private life.

If necessary, validate the content of the interview report with the respondent
Depending on the intended use of the respondent's answers, this validation can be important if, for example:

  • the respondent's verbatim comments are cited in the report
  • They stand as evidence on their own
  • The evaluator finds them ambiguous and is afraid of making a poor interpretation, or worse, a misinterpretation
  • The respondent has an official or sensitive duty
  • The respondent's willingness to respond depends on this validation

Anticipate what will have to be done after the interview

  • The intended use of the information collected
  • Its analyses
  • The types of debriefing, which should meet the client's and respondents' expectations (sometimes, interviewees request feedback about the use of their answer)