How to Conduct a Research Interview (With Types and Purpose)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Research interviews are tools that companies can use to gather information about different topics related to their business. They can ask specific questions to groups of interviewees to find ways to improve their business practices. If you work in business, sales or marketing, learning more about these interviews can help you create new marketing strategies or design new products.

In this article, we define what a research interview is, list the four main formats, explain their uses, discuss the purpose of research interviews, list five steps for conducting one and provide four in-depth examples with sample answers to guide you as you create your own.

What is a research interview?

A research interview is a type of interview that an organisation conducts to gather as much information about a topic as possible. Companies may select specific people to interview to make conclusions about consumer habits, attitudes or circumstances. The organisation can use the knowledge they collect from these interviews to make informed decisions for the better of the company. For example, a sports equipment business may use research interviews to gain insights into which sports are most popular with certain age groups, which they can use to their advantage when creating marketing materials for their products.

Related: What Is Primary Research vs. Secondary Research? (And Types)

Types of research interviews

You may select a variety of formats for research interviews to get the right information from your individuals. There are four main types of interview formats, each with its own benefits and structures. These types of research interviews can include:

Informal interview format

An informal interview format is where you don't have pre-prepared questions to ask the person you're interviewing. This is a good format because it increases the likelihood of having a conversational interview. Pay more attention to the interviewee's tone and body language to see how they feel when you ask them a question. You can observe if they're feeling comfortable and write down other observations in the notes you take during the interview. 

General interview format

The general interview format differs from an open-ended interview because you still have the flexibility to ask questions outside of this format. This interview may have a conversational tone, but it's beneficial to encourage the interviewee to prepare for this format. Be sure to give them the most information up-front, especially if the sole purpose is to acquire more information.

Open-ended interview format

An open-ended interview format means that you ask all interviewees the same questions. Most research interviews have this format, so you can focus on what you're looking for in answers from interviewees. This format makes it so that the interviewee can elaborate as much as they want to when answering questions, allowing you to get a good idea of their overall attitudes about a specific topic.

Closed format

A closed format interview is when you provide interviewees with clear options on how to answer your questions limiting their responses to the given choices. This data can be useful if you're looking to narrow options judgment in a particular scenario. For example, a question where you specifically ask for a yes or no answer is an example of a closed format interview question, as you're not looking to hear an elaboration from the interviewee on why they chose that answer.

What is the purpose of a research interview?

A research interview can provide an organisation with plenty of helpful insights about their client base, the success of their marketing plans and how audiences respond to their products and services. With the information they can gather from research interviews, companies can make more informed business decisions to cut as many of their losses as possible. Rather than taking risks with the release of new products or approaches to marketing, businesses can use research interviews to determine the likelihood of their ventures' success.

For example, consider a makeup company that is looking to start a new line of skincare products. Before they spend funds on creating a new skincare line, the company decides to hold research interviews with various members of their target demographic to determine their overall attitudes towards the idea of a new skincare line to decide if the venture is worth the investment.

Related: 10 Examples of Research Design That You Can Use For Research

How to conduct a research interview in 4 steps

Here are four steps you can follow to successfully prepare for and conduct a research interview:

1. Identify your objectives

Discover the goal of your interview and the information you need to get to ensure success. Look at key performance indicators (KPIs) to increase the value of your interview questions. The KPIs you set can help you receive responses tailored to your objectives.

Some KPIs you can set include:

  • the number of interviewees

  • quality responses on a certain subject

  • the time they take on each question

  • cost to perform the interviews

2. Select the interview format

Choose from one of the four types of interviews to see how you get can the best responses. Factor in the information you're trying to receive and the time you have with each interviewee. Write a list of pre-prepared questions to find out if it fits with the content the company is looking to use.

3. Choose the right interviewees

Review the demographic data to identify who you may want to interview. For example, if you're conducting a test for a cold-weather clothing company, you may want to interview people who live in or frequently visit cold areas. Here are some demographic factors you might consider when assessing who to interview:

  • age

  • location

  • gender

  • annual income

  • education

  • job status

  • family status

4. Recruit interviewees based on your goals

Gather contact information from your target interviewees and reach out to them to gauge their interest. Make sure you properly introduce yourself, the company you work for and the project. Communicating the purpose of the interviewees' information can increase the chances of acquiring willing participants.

Related: How to Conduct Market Research (With Steps and Types)

Example research questions with answers

Here are four example research interview questions and sample answers you can use as a reference when preparing to conduct one on your own:

1. What's your purpose for participating in this research interview?

This is an example of an informal format interview question. While the interviewee's answer may not provide direct insights for the company, its informal nature can help make the interviewee more comfortable and make for a more conversational interview that generates more informative responses.

Example answer: "My purpose for attending this interview is to assist your company with gaining insights about females in my age group and how we respond to your brand's marketing techniques. As an avid consumer of makeup products, I think it's important to do my part by providing my thoughts and reactions to cosmetic products. I think the more informed companies are about their clients, the better suited they are to make high-quality products that encourage competition in their market sector, which is better for me as a consumer."

2. How would you describe our marketing strategy to someone in your age demographic?

This is an example of a general research interview question because it focuses on a more specific topic that the company can ask each interviewee. The research subjects have the opportunity to be as specific as they please when providing their responses. For the company, it can be insightful to identify any patterns or similarities in responses to these types of questions to make conclusions about that specific topic.

Example answer: "I would describe your marketing strategy as focused on 18 to 25-year-old females who have a solid familiarity with online culture. I think you guys do a great job of incorporating current trends and memes from the Internet that people from your target demographic are likely to frequent and resonate with."

3. What do you typically look for in your cosmetic and skincare products?

This is an example of an open-ended question, as it sets up the interviewee for providing their own explanation as to why, where or how they do a specific task, such as purchasing, using or researching a product.

Example answer: "When I'm searching for cosmetics and skincare, it's important to me that I research the ingredients and manufacturing practices the company uses to create their product. Whether I'm ordering items online or am buying them in-person at a store, I take the time to research any ingredients that I'm unfamiliar with to determine whether or not they're safe and useful for my personal skincare and cosmetic needs."

4. Would you seriously consider purchasing products from our new skincare line? Yes or no.

This is an example of a closed format interview question because you're instructing the interviewee to provide either a yes or no answer rather than elaborate on why they're providing that response.

Example answer: "Yes, I would.

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