Interviewing is one of the most efficient ways to gather facts about a situation, person or problem. To do so effectively, you must determine the best people to interview and have clear objectives for the interview to keep you focused on the information you seek whether as an employer, IT technician or product development coordinator.
Preparing for the interview is as important as the interview itself. Prior to the interview, you must establish what information you need and how you plan to get it. This sounds very plotting and spy-like, but it really isn't. If you work in IT and need to establish the root of a hardware or software problem, you will want to know what hardware is being used followed by the software components. This information gives you a basis of what normal operation should be, and you can piece the problem together through interview questions. If possible, send a questionnaire ahead of time to better target the interview questions and save time.
During the Interview
When actually conducting an interview, take a backseat approach and allow the person time to think about his answers. Active listening is imperative on your part. Never make someone feel dumb about an answer, or you will risk the subject closing up completely and not giving all the information she has. The best interviewing techniques allow the person being interviewed to feel like an expert (even if he's not). Take what he says and reiterate it before proceeding, giving both of you the opportunity to make sure the message is being conveyed properly. By doing this, you can lead a subject into specific facts that you need information on. Think of a witness on the stand--the attorney takes information that has already been established by facts and testimony and gives the witness just a little push in the direction she wants.
Improving Your Fact-Finding Techniques
Try not to take too many notes while fact finding, but instead be engaged in the conversation. The time to write everything down is immediately after the interview, when the information is fresh in your mind. If possible, you can use other fact-finding techniques prior to an interview to make it more effective. As mentioned earlier, you can use a questionnaire or survey to get key information to focus your questions. You also may use observation techniques to get a better understanding of the situation. Remember that fact-finding interviews are an art and don't always succeed, regardless of how good the interviewer is.
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