A day in the life of…Field Interviewers

NatCen interviewers share their experiences in the field.
field interview
  • Publishing date:
    3 June 2024

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) works hard to engage with under-represented and difficult-to-reach groups, and it’s here that a field Interviewer really helps to give the general public a voice. Our experienced Interviewers visit people in their homes to understand their perspectives for research projects such as the Health Survey for England (HSE), the English Housing Survey (EHS) and many more. The data collected by the Interviewers will ultimately contribute to a better-informed society.

What does a typical day look like?

Every day is different for them, they have to interact with a diverse range of individuals. You could hit your target responses straight away in one day, but the next might be the complete opposite. The interviewers’ day often looks something like this:

day in the life

What should you consider when gaining co-operation to an interview?

With many years of experience conducting field interviews, our Interviewers highlight the importance of reading people’s faces and body language as an essential skill – though, you know when somebody doesn’t want to speak to you when they shut the door in your face. It is also important to ask open ended questions, as you want to avoid the participant saying no – you can always come back on another day.

Challenges and how to overcome them

Effective planning and preparation are crucial. Understanding time management and organising each task appropriately may help to minimise cramming or delaying interviews. 

Innovative technology has changed the nature of doorstep interviews by enabling participants to see who is at the door, even when they are away. This is an example of a fundamental hurdle to overcome. One example of this is Ring Doorbell. Gaining the trust of participants is essential; interviewers display their identification to avoid any confusion, especially as people are increasingly wary of scammers.

You may face challenges in this role, such as being turned away at the doorstep, however the next participant may be eager and more than willing to engage. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a participant could surprise you with their personality, making this job exciting and keeping you on your toes.

Top tips

  1. Knowing the purpose of the study and its intended results will help demonstrate your expertise to the participant.
  2. It’s helpful to have all relevant documentation to hand, such as details outlining the purpose of the study and how the data is used. This can reassure the participant that you are knowledgeable about your position. In addition, having a copy of the advance letter we send to each participant beforehand is useful in case it hasn’t been received or has been misplaced them.
  3. Wear comfy shoes. You will need shoes that are easy to put on and slip off, if needed when entering a participant’s home.
  4. A grey Sunday afternoon tends to be a great time for people to be at home and answer their doors.

At NatCen, our research studies are focused on making life better. Our field Interviewers find the topics interesting and popular amongst participants who are curious about societal development and legislative changes. This in-person fieldwork not only provides insights into society’s thoughts and behaviours but also develops creative solutions and opens doors for future developments in the field.