The action of interviewing seems simple when you think about it as a concept. You ask questions, presumably ones that create interesting dialogue and if done well, the interviewee spills their heart out to you. However, when it comes to actually doing, it’s a rather daunting process. Especially to an individual who doesn’t possess the gift of easy conversation. To make it slightly easier for me while still following the rules of interviewing to a stranger, I asked a friend if they would get me in touch with one of their classmates/school friends. This may have been cheating slightly, but I justified it by thinking that real interviews are often arranged by appointment, as well as saving me countless moments of anxiety by asking a stranger on their lunch break. My friend found an acquaintance happy to help me out and an interview was arranged for a day we were both at school. I asked them for consent and explained the purpose and content of my interview: Diversity within Capilano’s curriculum and faculty and then we were off.
I should start by stating that the interview didn’t start off as smoothly as that. One of my greatest weaknesses in writing the preamble or setting the scene, and that often translates to conversation: I simply just never know where to start. Therefore, the beginning of the interview didn’t go as smoothly as the million times I had practiced it in my head, my words mixed up and the awkward silences lingered on for just too long. Luckily, my interviewee was patient and understanding and my innate determination—see: stubborn—wouldn’t allow the interview to be a complete failure. I kept in mind the Hermanowicz paper stating that “great conversation is the quality that should guide one’s approach [when] interviewing [and that] a not-so-good interview is not a conversation—it is, rather, mechanistic” (482) and while the conversation may have not started well, there was no reason I couldn’t get back in track. Moving away from the awkward openers, I got my interviewee to tell me about their program, the classes and their experiences at University so far. This proved effective and conversation and questions came much more easily compared to the stop and start dialogue in the beginning. Finding the right probing question came more readily, and my interviewee’s answers gave me chances to ask them to elaborate which set an evener mood for the rest of the interview would be.
It was not only the opener that I struggled with during the interview but also the art of note taking and like most artforms, the talent seems to elude me. I knew this already from my note-taking style in class, but I was determined that this interview would be different, I would take notes and they would flow, if not effortlessly than at least in a way that made sense to me later. As you can imagine, reading my notes later was similar to deciphering an old English manuscript: I could recognize some words, and get a feeling of what was trying to be said but hopeless at actually reading it. The second problem I had with note taking was balancing it with the process of creating flow and actively listening. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to Hermanowicz when it came to taking as few notes as possible (496), thinking that I could quickly jot down my thoughts and their responses and the silences that came during the interview process were not the deliberate ones Hermanowicz suggested (585) but rather poor execution and self-awareness on my part.
The final lesson I learned from this interview and in relation to the Hermanowicz article was asking clear questions. There were a few times when my interviewee answered a question with unclear or…misdirected answers. It took far more probing questions than it would have needed to get to the direction I was headed than if I had just worded the answer more clearly to start. One moment that stands out is when I was asking about the diversity within the courses they has taken, they answered about the courses as a whole rather than individually as I had intended. It took a few extra moments but with the right sub-questions about the courses they had told me they had taken earlier, we eventually to the answers I was looking in order to transition to the next question.
This interview assignment was not one I was looking forward to for the reasons I stated in the beginning of this paper. In fact, I dreaded it and a miniscule part of me debated the pros and cons of skipping it entirely. Luckily, my realistic side won the debate like it often does and I actually came out of the process with a deeper self-awareness when it comes to interviewing and interacting with people on a more basic level than I really wanted to admit. Hermanowicz’s analogy to dating and sex in his article “The Great Interview: 25 Strategies for Studying People in Bed” translates clearly when thinking back to the interview process itself and I think it is safe to say that my date with my interview ended on a good note, but the chemistry just wasn’t there and the blame lays at my own feet. I may dread putting myself out there again, but I know that by refining my interviewing practices, the next one may prove to be better.