Interviewing by Telephone: Specific Considerations, Opportunities, and Challenges

Emily S. Block, Laura Erskine

Abstract


The use of telephones as a medium for conducting interviews is becoming an increasingly popular data collection method. Despite both the frequency of use of this data collection method and the many advantages conferred to researchers, this method is often considered suspect within the academic community. In methodological discussions of interviewing, the use of the telephone is frequently ignored. The purpose of this article is to explicate the key differences between interviewing by telephone and interviewing in person and highlight three specific challenges to interviewing over the telephone—the sample, the tools, and the medium. This article considers specifically how recent research in management and communications on distanced leadership provides insight into the tradeoffs associated with interviewing through this medium. This data collection medium has clear and distinct advantages, such as providing researchers with flexibility and access that is unavailable through traditional methods, and many of the challenges of telephone interviewing may simply be the result of a natural trade off that exists with respect to all research methods. In order to safeguard against some of the inherent weaknesses of this method, this article provides several lessons that can better inform those researchers who wish to engage in telephone interviews.

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