Guest Blog: Mental Preparation for Interviews

August 31, 2016

In a previous blog, John hit the high points of preparing for elicitation interviews. But what he did not cover, as Carolyn pointed out, was the mental preparation of the interviewer before ever picking up the phone. While that will vary for every CI data collector, there are a couple of proven ways to get your mind in gear for this stressful task. These are not cumulative, but rather more of a menu. What they have in common in finding a way to relax your mind and to center it on the interaction during call, not on anything else:

  • One of Carolyn’s favorite tricks is to work on her persona for the call. She refers to this as developing her Diva. That means getting into the mode of determining what element of your personality you want to project on the call, and then focusing on it well before picking up the phone. Then, once you are on the phone, it is Show Time!
  • For John, the focus is on clearing his mind (no jokes here, please). To remove his attention from whatever else is going on, he sometimes plays a couple of online hands of solitaire or games of Mahjongg. By focusing for two or three minutes on winning these games, he tamps down any other immediate distractions he has.
  • In a book John just reviewed, Ellen Naylor, a mutual friend of ours, has a variety of suggestions, one of the most creative of which is practicing relaxation breathing exercises just before calling.
  • Another tip is to anticipate and shut off all distracting background noise, such as a radio in the office, as well as your smart phone, starting a couple of minutes before the call.
  • Also, consider shutting off the email entirely, temporarily, until you are finished with the call and its transcription.
  • Some people just get up from the desk and walk around, getting a cup of coffee, or a drink of water and then sit down and start right away.
  • If you do not know the person you are calling, before you dial, try to visualize what that person looks like. Then, when he or she answers, quickly try to update that image. That way, you are immediately focused on that person, and not on you.


John J. McGonagle and Carolyn M. Vella

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