Qualitative Analysis: Interviewing and Observations
Interviewing techniques can be complicated and multifarious. I was introduced to formal interview techniques during training for a ‘Diploma in Personnel Management’. This knowledge was further enhanced during training as a ‘Quality Auditor’, understanding the difficulties concerning 'dramaturgical' interviewing. Qualitative researching skills were enhanced during academic investigations of people socialising in central Manchester.
In this paper are brief discussions about aspects of interviewing and interpersonal observations with ethical recommendations. There shall be examinations of the diverse objectives of interviewing and the varied methods applied. There will be inspections of interviewing methods for recruitment, work assessments and academic investigations.
This document will present difficulties arising from inadequate preparations for undertaking interviewing. This can include questioning techniques and ethical self-awareness to assisting countering ‘unconscious bias’.
Some of experiences within ‘Quality Assurance’ shall also be detailed. Several legal requirements will be referred to. Additionally, ‘participatory action research’ and the position as a ‘Public Engagement Ambassador’ will be explored.
Interviewing styles undertaken by employers are varied. They may consider that they are adequately familiar with interview topics, which are based upon their experiences within their company. Consequently, they do not recognise any requirement for preparing the interviewing processes. This can encompass the interviewer asking the interviewee ‘closed’ questions (Nuvvo, 2012).
A related situation in a large organisation was observed while sitting in on a joint-interview undertaken by the company’s personnel officer and security manager. The vacant position was for a security guard. When an interviewee was invited into the interview room, he marched in as if he had been previously military trained. One of the ‘closed’ questions the security manager needlessly asked was, “This job requires a lot of standing. Do you have a problem with that?” As the interviewee had been in the military it would be a valid assumption that he had experienced standing for long periods.
This scenario highlights issues regarding the omissions to prepare for interviewing with asking inappropriate questions and potentially displaying ‘unconscious bias’ (Boyall, Oct. 2012). This last situation can be complicated, as the interviewer(s) might not recognise that their personal preconceptions shape both the format of the interview and that of their preferred interviewee. Their favoured candidate may not necessarily be the most appropriate one for the position.
These preconceptions can be influenced by insufficient research about the vacant posts, which can include examining potential outcomes (short term effects) and impacts (long term effects) upon other employees in their organisation. This is connected with inadequate adherences to ‘Quality Assurance’, alongside ethical concerns (Conjecture-Corporation, 2013).
This research may encompass objectives to affect the culture of the organisation, which may include adhering to legal requirements (such as the ‘Equality Duty 2010’) within encouraging equality and diversity issues. Attempts to alter staff members’ prejudices within their organisation can encompass recruiting employees who represent that desired cultural change. Nevertheless, enrolment of such individuals may be restricted by ‘unconscious bias’ regarding limited understandings of how to effect cultural amendment within a company.
The frequent engagement of recruitment agencies can superficially simplify the employment requirements for an organisation. However, the resistant unconscious prejudices may shape the employer’s resistance to an agency’s favoured potential employees. Furthermore, the identification of prospective employees who might assist cultural alterations might require inventive investigations and assessments.
Consequently, changing an organisation’s cultural prejudices may be a protracted and complicated objective.
An organisation may take on adhering to ‘Quality Assurance’ (‘QA’), which involves assessing all the varied operations within the company. As a ‘Quality Auditor’, I was responsible for investigating the written procedures for posts with the tasks undertaken by the relevant employee(s). This can involve what academics identify as ‘dramaturgical’ interviewing (Berg, 2007). The interviewee may resist being interviewed in that they can be concerned about their job security as how they perform their employment may not be what the paperwork describes what they should do. Sometimes they are aware of the written ‘QA’ descriptions concerning their post and so know that they do not completely adhere to them.
As a result, similarly to recruitment interviewing, ‘QA’ interviews may concern visually assessing the interviewee’s ‘body language’ during their reactions to the questions they are asked (Mind-Tools-Ltd, 2013). Occasionally, it may be appropriate to reassure the interviewee that their actual experiences will assist shaping written procedures and not necessarily threaten their employment. Contrastingly, the ‘QA’ descriptions can be the correct and ethical procedures for the job. Therefore, such differences may involve educating the employee, who might require re-training. Very occasionally, disciplinary actions may be required.
It was observed that some employers do not regard ‘Quality Assurance’ as enhancing an organisation’s procedures and culture but as a tolerated obligation in order to gain a potentially profitable status. Consequently, while aspects of ‘QA’ can assist company adherences for ‘Investors In People’, it does not ensure that such organisations are enthusiastic in developing ethical, interpersonal support.
Contemporary Equality and Diversity issues have been influenced by legal requirements upon organisations, notably during the ‘Equality Duty’ detailed as part the ‘Equality Act 2010’. However, this Act became regarded as incomplete both by groups the Act is designed to protect and by employers who are concerned that these legal restrictions can adversely affect their companies’ operations. There are continuing discussions concerning the repeals of parts of this Act and the continuations of discriminatory actions by some companies. Moreover, the ‘Equality and Human Rights Commission’ (‘EHRC’) has recently noted the incomplete compliance of some public authorities to the obligations concerning equality.
Recent examinations instigated by the ‘EHRC’ have also recognised deficiencies concerning several academic investigations of social issues in the UK, with resultant impacts that Government departments, public authorities and media organisations are forming imperfect suppositions. These flawed assumptions will influence public perceptions and possibly hamper equality and diversity issues.
Interviewing during academic investigations
Interviewing methods have been repeatedly and critically examined during academic studies, significantly within psychology and sociology (Becker, 1998; Berg, 2007). The objectives within such interviewing are similar to recruitment interviewing in several respects in that thorough preparation is necessary and that the interviewee should be meticulously assessed.
There have been numerous discourses within academic groups concerning the preferred philosophies applied in undertaking interviews (Miller and Glassner, 1997; Hammersley, 1998; Mason, 2002). During recent years there have been progressions from the viewpoint that the person being interviewed was an examined object towards the opinion that an interviewer and interviewee should be viewed as equals.
In this respect, research interviews can strongly differ from recruitment interviewing. Whereas, in the former, the interviewee can powerfully shape the research, in the latter, the interviewer should be fundamentally in control. However, in both cases, ethical skills are necessary.
Nevertheless, within present-day academic research what is theorised and what is actioned by the investigator can differ. It has been recently recognised that academic bodies may be limited in supportive actions for public engagement (NCCPE, 2012a). This includes the debatable academic position as a ‘participatory action researcher’, which encompasses actively supporting the communities being studied. The ‘National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’ champions this perspective and, as a result of my compatible research perspective, I applied to this body for becoming a ‘Public Engagement Ambassador’. I was appointed on 23rd June 2011.
Within such ‘Public Engagement’ research, the outcomes and impacts of the studies being undertaken are critically self-examined. This reinforces the current instigations required within the ‘Research Excellence Framework 2014’ and the recruitment of individuals experienced in the necessary investigative techniques (REF, 2012).
Qualitative assessments via observations
A proficient interviewer will be skilled at observing visual signifiers exhibited by the interviewee (Chandler, 2009). This is similar with the observations a researcher will undertake during interactions within the examined communities. These signifiers can be individuals’ body language and their visual presentations. However, the ‘unconscious bias’ of the interviewer/researcher might influence the interpretations of these signifiers. These analyses can be significantly shaped by verbal discourses with those being observed but the interviewer/researcher should be self-critical.
A potentially more complicated qualitative assessment encompasses examinations of written texts by researchees. This can include email communications. However, such investigations are influenced by understandings of the possible emotionally motivated arrangements of texts within these communiqués.
In several respects, this issue is comparable with the order and tone of the questions featured in survey designs. Examinations of quantitative analysis will be undertaken in another article.
This article has derived from several extensive qualitative experiences within ‘Personnel Management’, ‘Quality Assurance’ and as an academic ‘participatory action researcher’, analysing communities in central Manchester. Within investigations of the potentially complicated interviewing methods for recruitment, work assessments and academic investigations, there have been references to both legal requirements and academic requirements concerning ethical issues. Suitable researching for any form of interviewing is essential. This encompasses self-critical awareness of ‘unconscious bias’.
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