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What's it like to be a NatCen interviewer?

Alison Ryder Cook, a NatCen Interviewer, talks about what it's like to work on one of our most well known studies, British Social Attitudes, and shares some advise on how to get ahead in interviewing.

I’m lucky enough to work on one of NatCen’s flagship studies, the British Social Attitudes Survey. 

Each year the questions are different, but the topics are always interesting and relevant and people nearly always have strong opinions. I’ve worked on BSA for 18 years now, and during that time I’ve asked the public what they think about the NHS, immigration, crime, pensions, education, terrorism, housing shortages, the war in Iraq, mental illness, the monarchy, Scottish independence, the European Union, divorce, and gay relationships - and these are only a few examples from this very wide-ranging study.

When NatCen publishes results from the survey each year,  it attracts a lot of interest from the media, because it covers such important national topics. On top of this, I know that in the longer term, the survey is performing a really serious and important role - it not only documents how British society is changing over time, but it also contributes to long-term social policy change in the UK.  What better reason could you have for wanting to work on this study?

Over the last two decades of working on the British Social Attitudes Survey I’ve learnt  some simple techniques that help convince people to take part, so for the benefit of anyone interested in becoming an interviewer, here they are:

Try and make it relevant to the respondent

On the doorstep, people will often say "Yes I have received my advance letter, but I don't really understand what this study is all about". This is a great opportunity to get them interested by talking about a topic you think they will be interested in or will affect them personally. Older people often have strong views on pensions, the NHS and healthcare services; young families will have a particular interest in schools, education and childcare; and across all age ranges, many British people have concerns about terrorism and national security, unemployment, the economic situation, housing and immigration.

Make sure that you ‘know your study’

Giving the public well-informed, confident answers to their questions helps to inspire their trust in you and makes them more likely to feel interested in the study and in taking part. So before you head out, make sure you’re ready to answer the following questions, "Who is this study being done for?", "Why have I been chosen?", "What is the purpose of this study?", "What sort of questions are you going to be asking me?" or "Why are you asking these particular questions?"

All the best of luck -  it’s a really rewarding study to work on, the public find it very interesting, you will meet a wide variety of people with very diverse views - and it's fun!

Alison