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An interview is a conversation between two or more people (The interviewer and the interviewee) where questions are asked by the interviewer to obtain information from the interviewee. Interviews can be divided into two rough types, interviews of assessment and interviews for information.
The most common type of interview for assessment is a job interview between an employer and an applicant. The goal of such an interview is to assess a potential employee to see if he/she has the social skills and intelligence suitable for the workplace. Similar interviews are also used for admissions to schools, allotment of grants, and other areas.
In most developed countries, rules and regulations govern what can be asked in these interviews. Highly personal questions and those unrelated to the job at hand are forbidden, as are questions which invite discrimination. However some interviewers tend to ask such questions in order to see how the interviewee reacts and if (s)he is able to elegantly avert the question.
Such interviews can be brief fifteen-minute affairs or they can stretch for many hours even over a series of days. McMaster University and other institutions have begun admitting medical students based upon Multiple Mini-Interviews. Multiple Mini-Interviews involve having each candidate rotate through a series of 10-12 short "stations." Each station requires the candidate to perform a task. A score is assigned by an observer to each performance and the total score determines the standing of the candidate. Research on the Multiple Mini-Interview has suggested it is more reliable than traditional panel-based interviews as interviewer biases and unusual performances on the part of the candidate get diluted among a larger sample of behaviors.
Another important type of interview is the psychological one that can be divided into three forms: structured, semi-structured and non-structured.
The second class of interviews are those seeking to gather information about a subject. These types of interviews are central to the practices of journalism and instructional design. Such interviews are also important to any non-fiction writer or researcher. In general the quotes and information gathered in these interviews are used in a publication or edited for broadcast.
Such interviews occur only because the subjects have some interest in being interviewed. There are four main reasons why subjects agree to be interviewed:
- Ego - The desire to be on television and to have one's opinions aired is a strong one-to-many. Many people enjoy talking about themselves and their lives.
- Publicity - Politicians and celebrities are dependent on publicity for their success and an interview is free advertising. As such many subjects insist upon prominent mentions of their latest book or movie in the interview. Such promotional interviews are frequently required by contracts.
- Money - The issue of whether reporters should pay for interviews is a controversial one. Pundits and experts are almost always paid, and this is often an important source of income to them. Most media outlets have rules against paying eyewitnesses for interviews, in part because this only encourages the fabrication of fraudulent stories in the hopes of being paid. A major exception to this are some tabloids, especially British tabloids. Other media outlets often wine and dine sought after subjects and give them other such perks.
- Helpfulness - many subjects agree to an interview simply to aid the reporter. This is true of most eyewitnesses and help explain why many famous individuals agree to grant interviews for items such as school papers.
Even after an interview has been granted the subject normally imposes conditions. Almost all interviews have a time limit. The greater the fame and importance of a subject the more limitations they demand. These includes subject matters that are off limits, a veto over the final piece, or even a full list of questions provided in advance. Some politicians, notably Helmut Kohl (Germany), have avoided giving interviews to the press, whereas many others consider this a necessary aspect of political campaigning.
There are several other rules to interviews. If a subject declares that what they say is "off the record" a reporter is not supposed to use such information. If material is "Background" the material can be used but its source cannot be mentioned, if it is "deep background" then the information cannot be used on its own, and can only confirm information already obtained from another source. A subject may also declare that their comments should have no "attribution." In such cases the name of the subject cannot be mentioned, but they should simply be referred to as "a source in ...".
These rules are unwritten and in the past reporters have broken them. However if a journalist published material that was off the record they are unlikely to be able to use that source again. They are known as a "burnt source." Moreover news of such betrayals spreads and a reporter may have trouble with other sources.
The tone of an interviewer is also important. Tough interviewers that are honest and forthrightly pose important and difficult questions are appealing to audiences, but not to subjects. An interviewer that develops a reputation for such aggressiveness may soon find it difficult to convince subjects to sit for an interview. A subject that is offended during an interview may put an early halt to the discussion. Politicians, celebrities, and experts on certain subjects are frequently interviewed. Sometimes interviews are ended early (usually by the interviewee); one famous example is the interview of Charlton Heston by Michael Moore in the film Bowling for Columbine. Well known investigative journalists can often get interviews only under false pretenses. Conversely, an interviewer that asks only "soft" questions will lose the respect of audiences and colleagues.
 Scholarly research
A research interview is a structured social interaction between a researcher and a subject who is identified as a potential source of information, in which the interviewer initiates and controls the exchange to obtain quantifiable and comparable information relevant to an emerging or previously stated hypothesis.
Social research interview is part of Qualitative research methods, there are many type of interview methods to use, but the most commonly used are structured, semi structured and unstructured interviews, although a structured interview comes more under Quantitative research methods as it is more like a questionnaire. Unstructured interviews is when the researcher asks little questions and lets the interviewee do all the talking, to find out as much information as possible, this type of interview is also known as 'Life History' Interview and is the favoured approach for a history researcher, it attempts to achieve a Holistic understanding of the interviewees point of view. Semi Structured Interviews is perhaps the most commonly used interview technique in qualitative social research , the researcher will want to know certain information which can be compared and contrasted with information from other interviews, the researcher may produce an interview schedule which is a list of questions the researcher will want to find out from the interviewee.
In a police setting, interviewing can be used to obtain information from a suspect, witness, or victim. Interviews can be conducted in a formal police station setting, or they can be conducted on the street or at someone's home. An interview turns into an interrogation only once someone is taken into custody and there is suspicion that they have committed an offense.
A Selling interview usually follows several precise steps. It starts with questions to the prospective buyer's about its situation and its needs. It is followed by a precise offer that is supposed to fit the motivations the prospect has expressed. Then the seller stresses the advantages of the offer, handles objections, and - if need be and when possible -adjust the offer. It ends with an attempt to close the deal, that might entail some negotiation.
 Famous interviews
- February 2003 Saddam Hussein interview - Dan Rather interviewing Saddam Hussein only days before 2003 invasion of Iraq
- The Rolling Stone Interview - a number of very influential pop-cultural interviews in the 70's
- Microsoft interview - the job interview method used by Microsoft
- Bashir interview - An interview with Michael Jackson, later created into a documentary
 See also
- Repertory grid interview