Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conducting Interviews

In addition to his many talents, Bennett McClellan is a raw food chef
and has shared his delectable creations with our workshop.
Photo courtesy of Raw Food Chef.

Today's guest blogger is Bennett McClellan, member of our workshop and soon-to-be CGU Ph.D. in Management. Bennett was kind enough to type up his thoughts and processes for conducting interviews for his dissertation research:

Tips for Getting Interviews Done

Here are some of the ideas I’m using to complete the 40 interviews I need as primary research for my dissertation:

1. Get a big (wall) calendar and decide how much time you need to get all of the interviews done. I need to complete forty interviews. If I do one interview per weekday, I will need 8 weeks total. I decided I needed about two months. August and September. I will try to compress my interviews, front load them into August so that September becomes a safety month. But my goal is one interview per day for eight weeks. The math works.

2. Block out a period for each day you intend to work that you will commit to the interview process. Let’s say you committed Mondays through Wednesdays, 9 am to 1 pm, for interviews. Even If you do not book an interview in this time, you will work on some aspect of interviewing during this period. This will include looking for contacts, sending out emails, making phone calls to schedule interviews, editing notes, abstracting data, or sending thank you letters. Something. For the entire period you have committed. No carving around the edges. Potty breaks only!

3. Draft all the solicitation materials and thank you materials you need to set up and follow up with the interviews. This includes an abstract of your proposal, a consent form, a brief email summary of what you want, a thank you letter, etc. (Some of this needs to go to IRB as well.) You will simply cut and paste these materials as you need them. Resist the temptation to edit or modify each message for your intended recipient.

4. Enlist a “lap coach” to whom you will report progress daily. This person is not your academic advisor and is NOT your spouse. Just someone who kind of understands what you are trying to do and who can say “why not?” if you don’t get it done or “good job!” if you do. And whose nudging will not piss you off after 5 weeks of interviews.

* * * * *

“Enlist a 'lap coach' to whom you will report progress daily.”

- Bennett McClellan on accountability

* * * * *

5. Make a report each day at the end of the day to your lap coach. What did you get DONE that day? Don’t go into what you did not get done. Do not mention excuses. The reports look like this: “Dear Lap Coach: 5 people called, 1 interview completed, two interviews scheduled, 1 note edited. Thank you for keeping me honest!” That’s it.

6. If you have a friend, spouse, research assistant, or someone willing to take on the task of scheduling interviews, this will save you an ENORMOUS amount of time. You provide the contact list, the texts for solicitation, and the windows of opportunity on your interview schedule. It helps to set up a separate email address so that interview scheduling is the only thing that comes and goes to this address. Then you give your scheduler control of your interview schedule. You do NOT change the interview schedule to accommodate your whimsy. That privilege is reserved for those you interview. Your scheduler must feel in control of your time. Otherwise, it’s why bother?

7. Give your interview schedule lots of room at the edges. I’m happy if I complete one interview a day. I’m in heaven if I complete two. And I’m in hell if I complete three. Really! Each interview takes about a dozen email exchanges to set up, moves about 2.5 times, and takes about 6 hours from “Hello” filed as “Interview Complete”. You need to leave room at the margins.

* * * * *

“I'm happy if I complete one interview a day. I'm in heaven if I complete two. And I'm in hell if I complete three.”

- Bennett McClellan, on the need to build time into your schedule

* * * * *

8. Finish each interview note the day you have the interview. Yes, I know you will remember every detail of every conversation for the rest of your life. But you won’t remember much of anything about the last interview once you finish the next interview. Get each note done NOW! And if not NOW, then at 5 am the next morning before you take the next interview.

9. Make a completion chart for your wall. Like a big grid. Make a column for each of the important items you need to track (you can do this in Excel as well). Like Name, organization, phone number, email address, date you first contacted them, date & time the interview is scheduled, when you interview was actually completed, when the note was completed. This chart will help you track your progress. It’s also a great kick to see it fill up!

10. Plan celebrations at key milestones. One fourth of the way there. Half way there. Three fourths of the way there. Do this for interviews scheduled as well as for interviews completed. You have to do something to keep yourself going. This helps!

11. Buy a gift for your lap coach. Buy a gift for your scheduler. Thank these people profusely for helping you complete your interviews.

* * * * *

“Thank these people profusely for helping you complete your interviews.”

- Bennett McClellan

* * * * *

12. You now have the interviews in a binder (or electronic file, or whatever). Congratulations! Now get to work analyzing the data. You may want to keep your lap coach on the team for to keep your process on track as you report pages completed, chapters completed, etc. Having to be accountable to someone for your actions is a great way to keep yourself on track.

Thank you for the helpful tips, Bennett!


  1. This is an excellent process! I wish I'd had this when I started my interviews!

  2. I really idolized Bennett McClellan, and I am very happy to visit your site because your site discuss about Bennett McClellan. I really idolized him because he is a great chef. He is very clever at all in making raw foods to be the food is very tasty. And I learned a lot from him.

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