The Personal Interview

List of Questions Asked During Personal Interview

  1. What are some of the major differences you noticed between attending a boarding school and attending a day school?

  2. How do you feel attending a boarding school influenced the education you received?

  3. Overall, what was your favorite part about attending boarding school?

  4. Overall, what was your least favorite part about attending boarding school?

  5. Would you recommend parents enroll their child in boarding school or day school?

Interview Preparation

I chose to interview a classmate from a course we both took at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus last semester.  The interviewee is a 33-year old male who attended public schools K-9th grade, and preparatory boarding school in British Columbia during his sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school.  After some consideration, I aimed to structure my survey questions in a way that I would potentially be able to examine characteristics of individuals who attended boarding school.

In writing the questions, I attempted to focus on language that was unbiased and non-offensive (see Appendix A for the list of questions asked during this interview).  I also attempted to avoid vagueness and wordy questions.  Because this interview was to take place in person, as opposed utilizing Skype, I made sure I had all of my equipment to bring to the interview site.  My equipment included a notebook with my five, pre-written questions, a pen, and a digital audio recorder.


The Personal Interview

Although I already knew this particular interviewee, I was careful to go through the steps I would normally try to take with an interviewee I did not know.  We met at his apartment and ensured that any potential distractions (e.g. television or cell phones) were turned off or silenced.  I established a rapport by introducing myself, briefly explaining my assignment, and explaining how the interview would be conducted.  I also let him know that I would be soliciting feedback about my interview techniques upon completion of the interview.  I asked for permission to audiotape the interview (to which he consented).  After confirming the interviewee did not have any more questions or concerns, we began.

The interviewee was very open, friendly, and answered my questions to the best of his ability.  For the first two questions, he needed to be reminded of the original question after his responses fell off topic.  He was genuinely apologetic and quickly got back on track after a quick reminder.  Several times, probes were used to elicit a little more detail in his answers.  This was particularly apparent during the last question.  For the duration of the interview, I felt the interviewee became more relaxed and candid with his answers.  There were several instances where he either cracked a joke or shared a comical personal anecdote.  It was apparent the subject of the questions was seen in a positive, nostalgic light to the interviewee, which made eliciting responses relatively easy.

I did my best to take short hand notes of the interviewees’ responses to match up with the audio transcription later.  I was nervous that spending too much time writing would detract from the personal connection of making eye contact and showing physical signs of active listening, so I kept my notes bulleted and short.  The same sheet of paper was used to write questions and take response notes.


Interview Feedback

After the personal interview was complete, I asked for honest feedback on my interview techniques.  I was delighted to hear all positive feedback.  The interviewee said I was polite and engaging.  He said he was impressed with my ability to get his responses back on track without coming off as interruptive or rude.  The one thing he said stood out to him was that it seemed as though I was taking too few notes.  I then explained that if this were an official interview, I would be transcribing the audio later.

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