What does a face to face research interviewer do

I have completed the interviewer course for my new part time job, passed the assessment (everybody did) and received my work kit and work sets for the next quarter, so I am now officially a research interviewer trainee.

The survey is a large scale social research project about certain usage patterns and their correlation with geographical and socio-economic variables such as location, household size, work, education, income and habits. The purpose is to enable the client to forecast future needs for certain infrastructure in the region and provide customised data analysis to their clients*.

Approach & engage respondents

Data are collected through face to face interviews with every household member in a number of randomly selected households without replacement. That is, a selected household can’t be replaced with another household if they refuse to participate or no one is home, because that would cause selection bias (the survey would no longer comply with the random selection criteria).

If just one household member in a selected household refuses to participate or can’t be interviewed for whatever reason, then that data set isn’t complete, and the survey data quality takes a notch down. Every household member must be interviewed to comply – adults, kids, pets, anything with a pulse (just kidding – pets are exempted;-)


Scene from the Disney movie Up: dug hold's on the Kevin the birds leg, begging him to be dug's prisoner

“Please, Oh Please Let Me Interview You!”

Therefore, multiple (sometimes many) visits to each household are required to get in contact, make interview appointments and undertake all the interviews.

Ensure data accuracy

Data accuracy is paramount; so attention to detail and keeping tack of all the data is essential. Responsibilities include: cross-reference interview forms during visits to pick up on contradictions between household members’ answers; be versatile in the definitions, categories and codes; and handle grey zones / special cases.


Scene from Disney movie Up: the old man compares his old postcard to the real Paradise Falls

And read maps.

Be thorough with the admin work and detect & correct any inaccuracy, contradiction or error before sending a completed work set to data entry.

Any data sent to the office that doesn’t make sense will cause discussions, phone calls and investigation to close the gaps – waste people’s time.

Prevent bias

It is of course essential to establish rapport with all sorts of people, but also to remain neutral and not establish too much rapport, so as to steer clear of interviewer bias. Interviewer bias is when the respondent adjust his/her answers to please the interviewer or in other ways manipulate the interviewers opinion.

Interviewer bias is just one of the many way data can be invisibly compromised.


Scene from Disney movie Up; Dug, the golden retriever

Training is important.

That’s why new interviewers starts with an intensive training course (the next post is about the training course).


Ps. The illustration theme is inspired by the brilliant Disney/Pixar animation movie ‘Up’, and all the illustrations are of scenes from the movie.


*Why the vagueness: to give an idea about the job but not give away any details that identifies the organisation or survey or compromises confidentiality in any way.

**Interviewer bias: when the respondent care too much about the interviewer’s feelings and reactions and adjust (bias) his/her answers to please the interviewer or influence the interviewer’s impression of him/her as a person.

In order to avoid interviewer bias, an interviewer must keep voice and face expressions neutral, economise with eye contact, focus on the task and avoid showing any subjective presumptions, expectations or feelings in regard to any question or answer, or to the respondent.


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