A qualitative interview is a special type of interview that allows organizations a large amount of flexibility in how the interview is carried out. For many interviews, interviewers have a set list of closed questions to ask, questions that have relatively simple answers and can fit nicely into surveys. In a qualitative interview, however, the goal is to pursue more intangible results, to find the meaning that interviewees associated with concepts, and to ask open-ended questions that reveal more detail. There are several different types of qualitative interviews that organizations use for these broader goals.
Qualitative interviews vary with company strategy. Many companies use them for marketing research when they are first creating products and want general impressions from consumers. Others use them for specific position interviews where the personality and attitude of the employee is a key job consideration. Some may also interview clients this way, in order to understand the client's needs and expectations more thoroughly.
The conversation interview rarely even includes questions, instead opting for a much more adaptable framework. The interviewer usually knows enough about the subject of the interview and the interviewee to begin the conversation, but there are no talking points or particular goals. The parties involved simply talk, and the interviewer writes down general impressions and ideas that come up. Later on, these ideas may be applied more specifically to analysis and products, but the interview process itself is very relaxed.
The interview guide type of qualitative research is often the most popular type of informal interview. In this case, the interviewer does have a specific list of subjects that the interview must address. How the interviewer approaches and discusses these concepts remains vague, and the interviewer can often change direction, questions and attitudes in order to gather the necessary information.
The standardized interview is a stricter type of qualitative approach that includes many elements of a quantitative interview process, where closed-ended, survey-style questions are used. As in the quantitative version, the interviewer is given a set list of questions that must be the same for each interviewee. However, instead of being yes or no questions with simple answers, the concepts are open-ended, allowing each interviewee to answer the question with an opinion or more detailed explanation.
Focus groups are a flexible interview option that can be used for many types of research both qualitative and quantitative. But in qualitative interviews, a focus is one option that allows researchers to interview multiple people at the same time, which can be useful for finding out how people feel about something as a group and how reactions can play off each other in a more natural conversational setting.