Organizational Development Consultant and Leadership Coach

Nineteen Techniques to Gather Information: #2 Individual Interviews

May 19, 2014

“Sometimes we need to gather information from people other than those attending our meetings. On other occasions, we need to spend our limited meeting time making decisions instead of collect- ing information. Is there a technique you can suggest for these situations?”

2. Individual Interviews

What Are Individual Interviews?

The Individual Interviews technique is designed to gather information and ideas from specific stakeholders before a particular meeting takes place. Stakeholders are those people who have any vested interest, share, or stake in a given outcome. This information is generally collected and categorized for use in a specific meeting, but there are also times when Individual Interviews can take the place of a group meeting.

Individual Interviews ensure input, increase ownership, and help guarantee that the processes used and the decisions made in your meeting(s) will have the highest return on investment.

When to Use Individual Interviews

  • When information is needed from people other than those attending your meeting
  • When ideas and information can be gathered more efficiently on a one-to-one basis
  • When 100 percent meeting attendance is not possible
  • When the planned meeting time is too short for the quantity of information anticipated from the proposed agenda
  • When you want input from your stakeholders before an upcoming decision

How to Use Individual Interviews

  1. As you plan your agenda, determine what type of information or ideas need to be gathered before the meeting and how best to gather the information. Individual Interviews are most often face-to-face, verbal exchanges.

    OPTION: Alternatives to Individual Interviews include telephone and video conference interviews, small-group interviews, and written questionnaires.

  2. Decide who should be interviewed and who should send the interview invitation.

NOTE: Be sure to schedule interview times well before the actual meeting. Ensure that the interview invitations come from an appropriate person of authority and include an explanation of the purpose of the interview, time requirements, and how the interview results will be used.

  1. Plan the specific questions to ask during your interviews.

    Unless you are the leader, ensure that the appropriate person of authority signs off on your questions in advance.

    The type of information or ideas requested obviously will depend on the nature of your group, the meeting, and its agenda.

    • If you want to interview participants about their expectations for the meeting, you might ask, for example, “What do you think are the most important issues for our group to address at our next meeting?” or “How do you think we are doing at working together as a group?”
    • If it is appropriate to interview employees about a specific process, product, service, or problem, you might ask, “Where do you see the biggest opportunities for improvement?” or “How do you feel this specific problem should be addressed?”
    • If you want to question customers or suppliers about a specific issue, you might ask, “What can we do to simplify our interactions with you?” or “Where do you see our biggest opportunities for improvement?” or “How do our products/services compare to our competitors?”
    • If you choose to interview upper management about their perspective or considerations for your group planning session, you could ask, “What information do we need from you before our planning discussions begin?” or “What do you specifically expect from our department in the next three years?” or “What do you think we are currently doing well?” or “Where do you see our biggest areas for improvement?”
  1. Determine who should ask the questions. Be sure that the person(s) that you choose are credible and perceived as neutral.

             NOTE: Ensure that external consultants or anyone new have the proper introduc- tions in advance.

  1. Decide how the information should be documented during the interviews.

    OPTION: Consider recording your interviews. This can avoid confusion about what was actually said when preparing documentation. Be sure to get permission from the interviewees beforehand.

    NOTE: If you use more than one person to conduct interviews, consider quality control measures to ensure consistency. Make sure there is congruity between interview questions and summarization techniques. Agree ahead of time on a system of documenting and compiling the information. Let participants know if their comments will be anonymous or on the record and credited to them.

  2. Decide how the information and ideas collected will be summarized and presented at the meeting group.

    NOTE: Consider summarizing information into clustered categories, for example, by response type or group or level within the organization. Determine which categories to use based on what you feel will reveal the best quality and most relevant information. Then determine how to present the information, that is, in narrative format, with graphs, and so on.

    NOTE: Be sure to get permission from interviewees if you quote them by name in your interview summaries. Also inform interviewees if, how, and when they will see the results of the interviews.

  3. Conduct your Individual Interviews.
  4. Use the information as planned.


The Individual Interviews technique gathers information or ideas before a specific meeting takes place.

  1. Determine what type of information or ideas you need to gather before the meeting.
  2. Decide who should be interviewed and who should send the invitations. Schedule appointments well ahead of time.
  3. Plan what open-ended questions to ask.
  4. Determine who should conduct the interviews.
  5. Decide how the information should be documented during the interviews.
  6. Determine how the ideas and information collected will be summarized and pre- sented.
  7. Conduct your Individual Interviews.
  8. Use the information as planned.

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