What is an Interview ?
The most obvious feature of an interview is that it
involves communication between two individuals. But
can all interactions between two people be termed as
interview? When two friends are talking to each other
is it an interview? When a father and son are conversing
with each other is it an interview? No, it is not. You
have to distinguish between mere conversation and an
interview. Not all the talks that take place between two
people can be termed as an interview. Interview is not
a mere conversation but a purposeful, directed
conversation. One person, i.e., the interviewer takes
the responsibility for the development of the
conversation. He/she sees to it that the conversation
moves towards the desired goal.
The professional interview is different from an informal
interview for varied reasons, the predominant feature
being that it is conducted within the framework of a
specialized knowledge and skill. In a professional
interview the interviewer operates within the confines
of a well defined setting and is backed by organised
experience and recognized competence, working towards
known and established purposes.
Interviewing is an integral and important activity in
every profession. Both experienced practitioners and
relatively inexperienced social workers struggling on
the job with all the recurrent problems of interviewing,
and seeking some specific guidelines and answers, may
benefit from an explicit examination of the interview in
Interview --- A Purposeful Conversation
The simplest definition of an interview is that it is a
conversation with a deliberate purpose, a purpose
mutually accepted by the participants. It is usually a
face-to-face interaction which involves both verbal and
non-verbal communication between people during which
ideas, attitudes and feelings are exchanged.
Distinguishing Interview from Conversation
The crucial characteristic which distinguishes an
interview from a conversation is that interview
interaction is designed to achieve a conscious purpose.
If the interaction has no purpose, it may be conversation
but it may not be termed as an interview.
The point of differences between an interview and
conversation are listed below:
1) Since the interview has a definite purpose, its
content is chosen to facilitate achievement of the
purpose. The orientation of the conversation is
associational, and there is no central theme.
2) If the purpose is to be achieved, one person has to
take responsibility for directing the interaction
(designated as interviewer) so that it moves towards
the goal. There are no comparable terms to indicate
status, positions and role behaviour in a
conversation as its participants have mutual
responsibility for its course.
3) In an interview between a professional and a client,
one person asks questions and another answers
them partly because someone has to take the
leadership. Here, two people are working on the
problem of one.
4) The actions of the interviewer must be planned,
deliberate and consciously selected to further the
purpose of interview whereas the behaviour of all
the parties to a conversation may be spontaneous
5) An interview requires exclusive attention to the
interaction. A conversation, however, can be
peripheral to other activities.
6) Because it has a purpose, the interview is usually
a formally arranged meeting. A definite time, place
and duration are established for the interview.
7) Because an interview has a purpose other than
amusement, unpleasant facts and feelings are not
avoided. In a conversation, the usual tacit
agreement is to avoid the unpleasant.