What is an Interview Protocol?- A Clear Guide

What is an Interview Protocol?

Looking at the title of this article, you must be confused. Who would have thought that those job interviews you appear for, also have a structure to them? Who would have thought that the interviewers you face are as nervous as you are to follow their protocol for the interview? Don’t be confused, nothing like this happens at your jobs. It is not that job interviews are the only interviews that take place in the world. For instance, I might have interviewed my readers to find out who believed my introductory lines. I would have then used those interviews to create my research about article readers and their vulnerability to authors. This would be my research and the interview I conduct for it would have a protocol. So today’s topic- What is an Interview Protocol? 

If you’re one of those who think ‘how does it matter if I don’t follow the protocol’, read the article and let me prove you wrong. In research, it becomes increasingly important to follow an interview protocol to gain the required information. And with articles, it is important to give an interesting introduction. Hoping that I have been able to do that, I would now move ahead to enlighten you about the interview protocols. 

A Protocol To Introduce 

Before I start blabbering about what is the protocol that research interviews need to follow, I need to tell you what do I mean by the term interview protocol. After all, I need to make sure that you follow. While conducting any sort of research, the experimenters need to be cautious of every step they take. This is because they are provided guidelines for the experiment for it to be approved. An interview protocol is an example of one such guideline. 

Interview protocols act as a guide for the interviewers to prepare and plan the questions which need to be asked at the onset of the interview, how to frame the questions that are meant to gauge the experiences in detail, and how to conclude the interview. The protocols also specify the information that the participants or the interviewees should know before they take part in the interview. An interview protocol would generally cover the following aspects of an interview. 

  • What to do before an interview
  • How to begin an interview 
  • The best type of interview questions 
  • Pilot testing the interview 
  • Timing the interview 
  • And many other aspects…

All future researchers out there, don’t get scared by these specificities, these are just general guidelines. The next section will cover these guidelines and they will help you in gaining the confidence and the experience to conduct a successful interview. 

Prep In The Protocol 

Beginning an interview is one of the later steps for any researcher. There are many aspects of research that the experimenters need to take care of. What do you want to interview about? How do you dress for an interview? How do you make the participant comfortable? Oh, there are endless questions like these. This section answers some of this to help you prepare for the interview. 

What do you interview about?

The topic of the interview is decided depending on the topic of the research. Every researcher has a topic of the research and interviews are conducted to gain information about one of the sub-topics of the experiment. The questions of the interview also need to be around this topic of research. It should also be ensured that the questions are based on some previous academic knowledge and evidence done on the topic. 

The script of the interview

If an interview has a protocol, you cannot expect it to be spontaneous. This is why all researchers are advised to prepare a script especially to open and close the interview. These are the parts of the interview that are not guided by any questions which are why it is important to prepare well for them. 

Informed consent of the participants 

When you’re excited and interested in your research, every person looks like a potential participant to you. It is just like a new project you’ve made and you want everyone to look at it. But you need to know that not everyone is interested in looking at and knowing about your project. Similarly, not everyone is interested in taking part in your research. All participants need to give informed consent to participate in the interview. The data collected by any participant who doesn’t consent or withdraws their consent later, should not be used for the research.

Making the participant comfortable 

I’m sure you have experienced the tension while giving a viva and getting continuous questions from the instructor. In an experiment, you’re the instructor and the participant is the student. You don’t want the participant to feel uncomfortable and not be able to give you the information you want. Making the participant comfortable is one of the first steps to collect rick quality data. Ensuring the participant that the interview in no way wishes to cause them any discomfort or harm and that they can choose to withdraw their consent. The participant can also be reassured through non-verbal cues such as sitting at the same height as them. 

An Insight About the Interview 

Now that the preparation has been done, the participant is willing and ready to give the interview, your data is ready to be collected – the interview can now be taken. But how? What do you ask? What if you get one-word answers? What do you do if the participant feels uncomfortable? Don’t let your mind race with such questions, slow down. You’re not the one giving the interview, you can prepare beforehand. The interview protocol does just that. Pay attention to this aspect of the interview protocol to prepare a top-quality interview schedule.

Bond with their background

As mentioned in the above section, we have made sure that the participant is willing and comfortable to give the interview. But there’s still a problem. Both of you are strangers and might have to face awkward silences if you dive right into the interview. To avoid such problems, all interviews begin with basic questions about the participants’ backgrounds. The interviewers let the participants settle down and ease up by talking about themselves – their hobbies, likes, dislikes, something interesting happening in their lives, etc. Such questions aim to build a rapport or some sort of bond between the two people and remove any indication of a hierarchy. 

Open questions open more…

Have you ever asked someone something about their experience out of genuine curiosity and ended up getting a negligible amount of information. How sad that is. However, I am sure you’ve never wondered why this happened, or if the way you asked your question was wrong. As a professional researcher and an interviewer, it is time you did that. The best way to get more information is to ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking if someone’s experience at a particular place was good, if we ask how their experience was, we’ll get more information. This is the way to trick participants into giving out more information about the question being asked and to get significant data for yourself.

But what if they don’t?

We all know someone who doesn’t elaborate things even when given the chance. They are the short answer lovers. What do you do if one such person is your interview participant? You have built the rapport, you are asking open-ended questions, but the answers close you off What do you do then? First of all, stop panicking and remember that the interview protocol also deals with these issues. The protocol suggests the interviewers use prompts in such a case. So, if you are dealing with a person who is not giving you detailed information, go ahead and directly ask them to elaborate on your topic of interest. 

Wrong but right everything’s 

Hopefully, all of you have understood that the order of the words in the heading is wrong. Because if you realize how wrong and putting off this is, you will also realize how wrong and putting off a wrong order of your interview questions is. While taking an interview of a participant, the participant mustn’t feel less knowledgeable or unimportant for you – because for the researcher he is a mine of information. Thus, participants should be asked questions in such an order that they feel confident of themselves till the end of the interview. How can that be done? By asking the easier questions first and then making them answer the tough or tricky ones. 

Everything is done and dusted. But not quite. 

Protocol Post the Interview?

An interview protocol would guide researchers for the interview correct? But what about after the completion of an interview? Are the experimenters expected to follow some guidelines even after an interview? The answer is yes. As research requires more than one participant, there are things to be done after the first interview. This last section deals with that.

All’s well that ends well

An interview is only deemed to be complete when the interviewer ensures that it closes properly. Just like the beginning, it is important to ensure that the participant is comfortable and consents to the use of the answers provided by them. The interviewer should also make it a point to get feedback about the type of questions, any discomfort felt, or any other relevant aspect of the interview from the participant if they are willing. The participants should also be given space to add any other information they wish to or pose any questions to the researcher. Such an interaction closes the interview according to the interview protocol. 

Experience makes the experimenter wiser

Just like any subscription giving you a free trial month, the first few interviews are the trial interviews. In academic terms, these are called pilot interviews. After one of the trial interviews, the researchers get to know which questions were good, and which ones did not work. A judgment like this is made based on the answers and ultimately the amount of relevant information obtained through those questions. Based on the pilot interview, ideally, the researchers should change their schedule. These changes could be in terms of the order, the wordings, or the inclusion or exclusion of questions altogether. 

The duty to disclose 

After an interview is conducted and the data obtained has been used for the said research, it is only ethical for the interviewer to share the results of the study with the participants, especially if they ask for it. It is one of the jobs of a researcher to not make a participant feel that they have wasted their time or have been used without any solid purpose. A study is conducted only to share the results with the public, later on, to help any field. Thus, it is only obvious to be sharing the outcomes with those who made the study possible.

The Protocol to Conclude 

As we end this discussion about interview protocols, I follow my protocol to give all my readers a satisfactory conclusion. Now that we have read a whole article about guidelines to frame interview questions, let me pose some interview questions for you and let you decide if you have genuinely learned something from this article or not. And if you don’t want to test yourself, just give them a read and end on a happy note. 

  1. What kind of a person are you?
  2. What made you come across this article?
  3. Did you like the article?
  4. What did you like the most about the article and why?
  5. Will you read more articles about research interviews?
  6. Is there any feedback you would like to give about this interview?
What is an Interview Protocol?- A Clear Guide

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