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How to interview stakeholders for evaluation

A guide to preparing for interviews, considering the needs of your interviewees, and choosing live or online forums.

Things you'll need

  • Interviewers
  • interviewees (individuals or groups)
  • questions
  • venue (for face-to-face interviews) or an online tool or portal.

Selecting your interviewer

You will want interviewers who are:

  • skilled in interviewing and knowledgeable about the field and people they will be interviewing
  • active listeners and note takers
  • prepared with a short list of key questions.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using an interviewer who is familiar to the interviewee.

Some researchers argue that people are more likely to communicate with their peers about sensitive topics. Others suggest that interviewees may prefer an outsider. 

It may also be important to consider how credible the interviewer is to the interviewee.


Before the interview

When you get in touch with participants in advance of the interview you should consider the following points. 

  • Agree a mutually convenient date, time and medium (for online interviews) or venue (for face-to-face interviews).
  • Send the interviewee a brief guide to the topics that will be covered during the interview.
  • Explain the purpose of the interview and what will be done with the information.
  • Confirm whether or not they would like to take part.

Structuring and conducting an interview: preliminaries

This is a suggested structure for an hour-long interview together with tips on best practice.

Preliminaries – 10 minutes

  • Thank the interviewee for agreeing to be interviewed and for their time.
  • Remind the interviewee about the purpose and length of the interview.
  • Make clear who you are and your relationship to any organisations that have an interest in the research.
  • Ask permission to tape and/or take notes during the interview. This formal request for permission is important to protect both you and the interviewee.
  • Provide assurances that the tape/notes will be destroyed once the information has been used.
  • Assure confidentiality.

The interview conversation

Listen actively to the interviewee.

Conversation with interviewee to gather information – 40 minutes

  • Focus on what the interviewee means throughout the interview rather than recording everything that is said and trying to interpret it later. Seek clarification during the interview, if needed.
  • Write down key points rather than verbatim transcripts which may not be helpful.
  • Remain neutral, but show empathy and respect, building rapport. Try to break down the barriers between you as the interviewer and the interviewee.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Allow yourself time to process responses and probe further where necessary.
  • Remind the interviewee that taking part is voluntary.
  • Check if they would still like to take part.

Finishing the interview

Signal that the interview will be ending soon. This helps both you and the interviewee to wind down and allows the interviewee an opportunity to add anything that may have been missed.

Feedback and clarification – 10 minutes

  • Clarify key points with the interviewee to check you have correctly interpreted and accurately recorded what they said.
  • Let the interviewee know how and when you propose to share the findings of the interview.
  • Take responsibility for taking forward issues raised. Interviewees may feel exposed after the interview, having shared perhaps intimate or personal issues. 
  • Alternatively, they may have requested help around an issue. You might prepare for this by bringing information about avenues of assistance with you to the interview.
  • Thank the interviewee for their time.

Group interviews

In some circumstances, a group interview with stakeholders, for example with a staff team, can provide more useful information than those with several individuals. 

A disadvantage is that one or two individuals might dominate the group, and that group views tend towards agreement, rather than facilitating the expression of different views.

Further information

Read more about focus groups and group interviews.

Read more about writing questionnaires.

Read more about impact and evaluation.

This How To was contributed by NCVO Charities Evaluation Services.


Page last edited Jan 31, 2018 History

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