Master the art of online and in-person interviewing

Interviewing experts is a key part of scientific research, so it’s important to hone your skills. Mahra Haitham Al Hosani and Mariam Shadan provide eight tips – and three things to avoid


18 Jun 2024
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In the realm of scientific research, strong interview skills are often overlooked as a tool. To distinguish your paper from the rest, merely collecting the evidence that supports your hypothesis from books, websites and grey literature won’t be enough. It is through speaking to people who have immersed themselves in the field of our interest that we truly begin to gain insights. As William Saroyan said, “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.” But how should we approach the idea of interviewing experts in order to obtain the information we need?

As a researcher, the ability to communicate effectively is crucial. You must be able to present your queries, facilitate discussions and build rapport with your interviewee to ensure that you achieve optimal results.

Eight tips to elevate your interview approach

  1. Without proper preparation, your interview will lack structure. You must clearly state your research interview objectives, preparing flexible questions and probing cues.
  2. Do your background research on the interviewee. Be sensitive to the interviewee’s morals, values and triggers. Create a comfortable environment for them, allowing them to speak to you freely.
  3. Although you may have to clarify your interviewee’s answers, you should maintain a balance between talking and listening. For example, let the interviewee finish speaking before asking the next question and remain polite.
  4. Mimic your interviewee’s body language and pace to establish rapport and harmony.
  5. You can control nervous habits such as fidgeting. Practise relaxation techniques to help keep any anxiety to a minimum during the interview.
  6. Ask clear, simple, short questions. Clarity helps to generate precise answers.
  7. Be strategic with more difficult questions. Hold them back for later in the interview, when rapport has been established. This will help to maintain trust and openness throughout the conversation.
  8. When ending the interview, ask a closing question that provides closure and leaves the interviewee feeling valued for their contributions.

Three things to avoid in a research interview

Not addressing your research objectives and hypothesis. When proposing your initiative, you should structure your explanation like this:

  • Clearly state your hypothesis and objectives.
  • Explain why you believe your research findings will impact your field. Address what findings you have reached so far.
  • Explain why you have conducted an interview instead of other approaches.

Lack of eye contact and rapport-building. As an interviewer, you need to pay attention to body language. Body language can be an indicator of confidence or discomfort for both the interviewee and interviewer. It is crucial to maintain eye contact, keep an upright posture and avoid exaggerated hand gestures.

Disregarding ethical guidelines. If you don’t maintain the integrity of your research findings, you risk your gathered data losing its validity and reliability. Avoid cutting corners, and don’t overlook ethical considerations. Research conducted outside ethical guidelines could result in legal actions.

Technological tools

How do these tips translate across different communication methods? As an interviewer you need to be knowledgeable about the best methodology to retrieve your data, especially in this age of evolving technology.

Face-to-face interviews have their benefits, including the personal interaction and the ability to observe body language and non-verbal cues. More authentic responses can come about as a result. But costs (for travel, accommodation, renting office space and so on) can add up quickly. Virtual alternatives such as videoconferencing make interviews more flexible and reduce costs and travel time for both parties. They’re convenient and less stressful, as both participants can dial in from their own home or office.

You can also reach out to a more extensive pool of interviewees, as there’s no requirement to stay within local boundaries. Just be aware of technical difficulties, which can hinder the interview process.


By mastering these interviewing skills, you can communicate your knowledge, show your ability to lead and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the expansion of knowledge in your field. As you grow these skills, you will be proving not just your technical competence but also, importantly, your ability to communicate difficult concepts in a comprehensible and convincing manner. By articulating your qualifications and enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries of knowledge, you enhance your chances of securing exciting opportunities in the scientific research domain.

Mahra Haitham Al Hosani is a medical student and Mariam Shadan is assistant professor of biomedical science, both at Dubai Medical College for Girls.

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