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Guest Post: The Benefits, Delights and Uses of One-on-One Interviewing

By Susan Bell

One-On-One Interview

This is a guest post from Susan Bell - a qualitative research specialist and director of Susan Bell Research. Sue loves to conduct all forms of qualitative research, including new ways such as qualitative social media research.

She writes about and teaches best practice in qualitative research and qualitative analysis. Originally trained in quantitative research, she is always happy to design and conduct all forms of research for a broad range of industries including financial services, food & drink, government and the arts - helping her clients use research to develop better products and processes, and to communicate in the language of their customers.

I have sometimes thought that the research and insights community considers one-on-one interviews (or ‘IDI’s) to be the poor cousin of qualitative research, as the usual argument is that you do one-on-ones with people who would not usually attend a group, like people of High Net Worth, or C-Suite Executives. While one-on-ones are perfect for this, they can offer researchers so much more and are often the best option even when a focus group or online group is feasible.

For researchers like us who are in the research business because we want to get to know people and to understand and share their experiences, one-on-ones are perfect. The best part of one-on-one interviewing is how we get to know people in the context of their own lives. We achieve much deeper insights this way.

One-on-one face to face interviews are in many ways mini 'immersions', as the researcher goes into people's homes combining interview with observation, so they have lots of value. We use them a lot for customer experience projects.

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"One-on-one interviews are. in many ways. mini immersions as they combine house visits with observation."

Thinking back to the AMSRS Winter School in July 2015, when I taught one-on-one interviewing, it was also really interesting to learn that many of the course delegates were doing more and more one-on-one interviews by phone rather than face to face, with relatively little use of technology so far. In a country like Australia, phone depth interviews are a great option. We have interviewed people in almost the whole country!

3 Advantages of One-on-One Interviews

  1. Understanding people in the context of their own lives
  2. Understanding how people make decisions and how they do things
  3. Simply, spending more time with the one person

3 Attributes One-on-One Researchers Need

  1. Empathy and interest in other people
  2. Flexibility in approach - to cope with last minute changes and dramas
  3. The ability to analyse as you go

3 Skills Interviewers Must Be Proficient In

  1. Phatic communication – i.e. demonstrating that you are attending to what is being said
  2. Active listening
  3. The different ways use of intonation when asking questions

Tip: think of ways to build some energy into one on one interviewing, which means avoiding simply sitting at a table opposite each other for an hour. Use stimulus material and games just as you would in a focus group. One-on-ones can be much more active and stimulating than plain 'question and answer' sessions, making it a more pleasurable experience for the participant and providing greater insight for the researcher.

We love one on one interviewing at Susan Bell Research! Find out more about our specific expertise.

Susan Bell

Susan Bell- Qualitative Research Specialist

Personal Bio: Susan Bell is a qualitative research specialist and director of Susan Bell Research. Sue loves to conduct all forms of qualitataive research, including new ways such as qualitative social media research. She writes about and teaches best practice in qualitative research and qualitative analysis.
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