Before you start interviewing colleagues, you should have a good understanding of what your project is seeking to achieve, a good knowledge of your workplace and its operations, and a good idea of the outcomes you want to achieve through the interview process.
Interviews can be a useful means of:
- gaining information to support and progress your project
- validating information you have gathered
- presenting ideas to colleagues
- advertising your project, and
- gaining using feedback.
Before you start interviewing colleagues, you should have a good understanding of what your project is seeking to achieve, a good knowledge of your workplace and its operations, and a good idea of the outcomes you want to achieve through the interview process. Introducing DIRKS and Step A: Preliminary investigation can provide you with guidance on achieving this important background understanding.
There are a number of different ways in which to conduct the interview process. You will need to decide which of the following methods is appropriate to your organisation:
- interviews with individual officers or
- workshops with selected staff.
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Interviewing individuals is particularly useful to determine what terms are used within the organisation to describe its functions and business activities, while a workshop may be preferable if you are seeking to document a work process. Much of what is discussed in this guide pertains to the interview process, but it can be easily adapted to suit a workshop situation.
Decisions about who to interview will depend on the nature of your project. If you are doing a large scale system assessment and want to develop a thesaurus and retention and disposal authority, you will need to talk to a range of staff across your organisation. If you are focussing on one specific business system, you will only need to liaise with staff involved with this system.
You may need to talk to talk to a range of staff, from senior managers to system users, or one or two interviews will close colleagues may suffice.
You may decide that external stakeholder liaison is important to your project. As a result, you could choose to interview a range of external stakeholders about their views and requirements for your project.
Remember that people are giving up their time to participate in your interview process. As a consequence you need to be well prepared and to know in advance the range of different issues you need to seek advice upon. Structure your interviews accordingly.
If you are doing a large scale project, you should ask questions of your interview participants that relate to all your requirements, instead of interviewing them once as part of your Step A research, and again as you reach Steps B, C, D etc.
Over-interviewing people can lead to them feeling frustrated with your project. This could make them unwilling to participate further in your work and may affect their responsiveness to your final product. Be very aware of this as your prepare for and structure your interviews.
To make the most of your time and the time of your interviewees, preparation is important. Try to ensure that the people you want to meet are fully briefed about your project and the specific information you will be requiring from them.
You can ensure that people are well briefed by running pre-DIRKS training programs that explain who you are and what your project is seeking to achieve. Pre-DIRKS training programs are discussed in Commencing a DIRKS project.
You could also arrange for a memorandum to be circulated to all staff identified as potential interviewees. The memo should:
- explain who you are and the name of your project
- describe the expected outcomes of the project, emphasising the benefits to the organisation (for example, savings in money and staff time used in storing, retrieving and locating records)
- indicate that interviewees have been selected because of their knowledge of the structure, functions and business activities of the organisation, as well as their understanding of the organisation's information needs
- identify the type of information you require and request that the interviewee consider these matters prior to being interviewed. Matters to be canvassed could include:
- the functions and activities of the operational area, and how these fit into the overall purpose and structure of the organisation
- what records and recordkeeping systems result from these functions and activities
- any legal or other recordkeeping requirements relating to the records, and
- the interviewees' opinion on how long the records they use are required for business purposes.
- state how long you anticipate the the interview will last, and
- thank prospective interviewees for their cooperation.
Once you have decided on a time period in which to conduct the interviews you should contact the interviewees and find out when each is available to be interviewed.
You may need to extend the interview program's timeframe to fit in with the interviewee's other commitments. Be prepared to be flexible.
It can be useful to have a range of pre-drafted questions to help you manage and structure your interviews. Sample interview questions for record managers and corporate managers are provided to help you with your interview process. Don't be limited by what is included in these sample questions - be sure that the questions you ask specifically relate to the types of information you wish to obtain.
Write up your notes directly after the interview, while the information is still fresh in your mind. It is a good idea to structure your notes clearly, for example according to each question or according to predetermined topics such as functions, activities, processes and recordkeeping requirements.
You should provide adequate information to enable every source to be identified (eg person's name, position, functional responsibilities, length of experience in the organisation). Be sure also to document the date of the interview.