6 Step Process to Conducting Qualitative Research Interviews

Looking for some more information about setting up a qualitative market research interview project? You are in the right place.

Qualitative research interviews (often called in-depth interviews or IDIs) are an excellent methodology to dig deep on a topic, product, service, or brand.

They aim to fully explore mindsets and beliefs whereas quantitative surveys aim to measure.

When determining the best type of market research to utilize for your study's objectives, it is important to talk to a market research expert.

These experienced industry professionals will guide you with choosing an approach, steering you to qualitative, quantitative, or both. 

In this post, our market research company will walk you through a 6 step process of conducting qualitative research interviews.

Conducting Qualitative Research Interviews


Article Contents

Qualitative research interviews offer some value beyond a traditional focus group.

One of the benefits includes extended 1-on-1 time with the participants versus sharing 60 to 120 minutes among 4 to 12 focus group individuals.

In a focus group that lasts 90-minutes, each of 9 participants would have an average of 10 minutes to speak.

Whereas with a 15-to-20 minute interview, you are doubling or in some cases tripling your time to research each participant. Even though it requires more time for the facilitator.

The qualitative interview steps we'll discuss in this blog include:

  1. Defining objectives
  2. Gathering a list of targets
  3. Developing a recruitment screener
  4. Designing an interview guide
  5. Fieldwork
  6. Reporting

Let's get started.


Step #1: Define Your Objectives

You will not have any good market research outcomes unless you first understand your goals and objectives for the project.

Common market research objectives answer the following questions:

  • What do you want to learn?
  • How do you want to use the results?
  • Who do you want to target for the interviews?

These and other secondary objectives need to be clearly defined in these initial stages.

Working with a qualitative research company will help you define these goals. The company will very likely put together a proposal for you with recommended methodologies based on your objectives.

After both your team and market research partner understand the goals of the research interview, a kickoff meeting is scheduled. 

The main goal of the kickoff and defining your objectives is to help guide future steps. It will set the stage for the recruit, interview questions, and outcomes.

Although this is only the first step in the qualitative research interview process, it is also the most crucial.


Step #2: Gather Your List of Targets

After defining your objectives and understanding who you want to target, the next step is to define how you will pull those lists.

Here are a few key differences to keep in mind:

  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) projects typically see an opt-in rate of 1:10, meaning you will need to dial at least 10+ records to schedule 1 interview.
  • Business-to-Business ratios are more like 1:20 or higher. This varies from project to project and client to client.

We cover this topic in-depth here: Definition of B2C and B2B Market Research.

If you are conducting research interviews with customers or clients, you will likely have an in-house database list that contains email, phone number, and name. This is the easiest audience to reach and schedule.

However, if you want to interview non-customers, the process is more costly and challenging because in many cases, these targets have no relationship with your brand.

To acquire these lists you can purchase one through the following sources:

  • Compile names and contacts through online secondary research (e.g. LinkedIn or online directory).
  • Pull from your sales or prospect database (e.g. Salesforce).
  • Partner with a market research panel company to recruit who has vetted lists.

Step #3: Develop a Screener and Begin Recruitment

Once you have the list defined and the number of interviews you want to conduct, the next step is to develop a screener.

This screener lays out the recruitment criteria to qualify a participant. This could include questions like age, role or title, specific purchase behavior, etc.

The recruitment screener can be sent via email or be used through a live phone call to qualify participants. If the participant qualifies, the next step is taken to book the interview date and time.

The Importance of Pre-Qualifying

Pre-scheduling interview is a vital step in qualitative market research.

Trying to conduct interviews on the spot, particularly for B2B, can prove very challenging if your targets have a busy schedule.

Pre-planning and choosing a time shows that your market research company is organized and respectful of the target's time.

Our qualitative recruiting company has found that if you can set aside time with the participant they are even more willing to stay on the phone or talk to you in-person longer.

Recommended Reading: 6 Benefits of Pre-Qualifying Market Research Participants


Step #4: Design an Interview Guide

Once the recruitment kicks off, you should begin your moderator guide design immediately.

Although you have a general sense of your goals and objectives from Step 1, here is where you become tactical and turn those high-level objectives into actual questions.

The guide is an excellent tool for the interviewer to keep the conversation on-topic and on time.

With an in-person or phone interview, much of the research is conversational.

Therefore you will likely have a fair share of open-ended questions in your script. Much more than a typical survey.

Keep in mind this will add time to the script. You should plan on about 1 question per minute (particularly for the open-ends).

This way if you have a 20-minute interview, you know that 20 questions (give or take) will keep you on time.


Step #5: Conduct the Interviews

The next step is fieldwork.

This is when you dial into a conference line or dial the participant directly (preferred).

Remember you want to eliminate as much work as possible and make it easy for the research participant. Calling them directly at your allotted time is easiest.

Here are some tips to help you master your research interview.

Then you follow your script and ask the respondent questions to address your key objectives.

If the participants end up elaborating on their open-ends and talks at length, they'll be likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if the interview runs over.

The first few questions involve some time of warm-up or easy questions to get the participant comfortable and to build rapport before moving into more depth.


Step #6: Develop Your Report

When conducting the research interviews, you have several options.

You can take notes in real-time, recap with notes following the interview, digitally record the interview, or have the interview transcribed.

Any or all of these are employed by interviewers and it truly depends on your style.

At our qualitative research company, we typically encourage our interviewers to record the conversations and recap notes after the interview.

This allows us to put 100% of our attention on the participant, actively listen, and ask natural follow-up questions -- all of which is hard to do when you are trying to scribble down notes for each question asked.

The type of report can also vary from a high-level summary to a comprehensive deck.

  • The topline summary typically pulls themes across all interviews and summarizes them into a short narrative report.
  • The comprehensive report might include the executive summary but also goes into great detail with a section-by-section breakdown and quotes from participants.

Each has a corresponding cost associated with it from your qualitative market research firm.

Recommended Reading: Topline Summary or Comprehensive Market Research Report: What's the Difference?

*Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted in July of 2020 but has since been updated.


Conduct Qualitative Research Interviews with Our Team

Drive Research is a national qualitative market research company in New York. We work with clients on both qualitative and quantitative custom-built research projects. Our scope of services spans all across the country and we even have several international clients.

Interested in receiving a proposal or quote for qualitative research? We'll make this easy for you.

Contact us 1 of the following 4 ways below, or all 4 if you are feeling ambitious.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.


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