Face to face interviewer job – Performance review

Muppet - Performance review
Image source: Muppet character found on Good Fun Mania

I have survived my second in-field evaluation / performance review for the interviewer job. It went surprisingly well. The first did too… so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised anymore. I guess it means that I’m actually good at this job.

I just counted that I have done over 100 face to face interviews in private homes if I include the ones I did for my BA thesis and another student project back in the uni days. And I think I have the hang of it!

In-field evaluations of a face to face interviewer job…

The in-field interviewer performance evaluations take place as follows:

First, my supervisor emails me to say that the time is up for a new evaluation and asks for the address and time of my next interviews. Then we meet there & then, and she follows me around like a shadow, taking notes. She doesn’t interact with respondents but tries to be like a fly in the air*. And yes, it makes me nervous.


Silhoutte of slender, elegant lady
Image source: openclipart.com

When she has seen enough, she’ll give me her feedback on what she has observed plus of my overall job performance since last review.

Essential aspects include response rate, data output quality – accuracy, compliance and consistency of the data in the forms I send in, compliance with scripts & procedures (every aspect of this job is zealously scripted), cooperation with my supervisor, speed and efficiency, and feedback from respondents. They get the latter from their quality control, where they call up a small percentage of respondents post interviews to check that the interviews really took place and that the data is correct.

The verbal review is followed by a written report where the feedback is put into numbers: the evaluated aspects are listed in order and each is rated on a scale with explanatory comments. Then I sign a copy saying that I understand the feedback and will implement the requested changes, and post it back to the office.

My first in-field performance evaluation took place several months ago.

The subject of evaluation was one of the longer interviews that are done by appointment with every household member of each sampled household. The interview had a few tricky twists due to language barriers, cultural differences and one family member not being physically present. I received very positive feedback afterwards for my handling of what my supervisor called ‘a difficult case’.

The trick was that complexity isn’t necessarily difficult for me, and the interview wasn’t hard at all. The respondents were polite, anxious and orderly; the kids were very well behaved and didn’t interrupt. So the interview took place in a setting which I found quite easy and which my supervisor perceived as extra difficult… Lucky me.

A harder (and common) scenario: 

A noisy TV, movie or video game (or several) runs in the background. A chatty, hyperactive, or crying toddler (sometimes several) roams the room. The parents try to partly ignore, partly respond to and handle the talkative little kids during the interview, and the kids try to get their attention.


vuvuzelas - clipart

Family members interrupt all the time to ask curious questions or comment on/doubt interviewees answers, and interviewees ‘answer ahead’ and chat about side-topics. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is lovely that people are friendly and participative, it means they get something out of it too … but it does makes it harder to keep focus and do everything right.

Working as a face to face interviewer with depression…

One of the things about my job I’ve worried about is how to handle it with depression. I tend to get downcast and demotivated for weeks or months at the time… I don’t think I can avoid it, so I need to factor it in.

Most of December I felt like I had no energy and wished I didn’t have to bother with this cumbersome, sad, pointless hassle called life at all. My mind glued to sad and disturbing themes like the US school shooter event, my thinking was slow and stupid, and life had a melancholic soundtrack underlying everything. ‘Welcome’ back to Depression.


Cat looking depressed with a plateful spaghetti

The worst aspect of depression is the difficulty concentrating and the slow thinking, because it leads to an abundance of little errors at a time where there is very little energy to fix them and do extra work caused by poor planning. Errors and poor work efficiency undermines the already eroded self confidence… A vicious cycle. That is one of the reasons the best option seems to be to just stay in bed and do nothing.

Encouragingly, the last two work assignments went well despite lingering depression. I had good response rates. I managed to get my act on and be friendly, outgoing and professional during the interviews, then sank back into my deep dark hole as soon as I wasn’t ‘on’ and could relax, struggling to concentrate in the traffic on the way home.

What saved me is that interviews are ‘on and off’, and mostly ‘off’. Shorts period of intense interaction buffered by long periods of solo time by myself in my own space, in my own car and at home. And that the work isn’t many hours, of course.

I try to compensate for the low brain energy and high error rate by being extra systematic and well prepared. I have scripts and a flow-chart-like order to guide every work action. I have all the interview items ready in the right order and positioned for maximum accessibility to counter clumsiness, confusion, anxiety and mind shut down. I have plenty of experience, which serves as a reliable scenario planning engine. 

My second in-field job evaluation took place between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I was informed about it at short notice. This time the focus was on early contact and introductory interviews: the part where I contact strangers and persuade them to participate in the survey**. The trickiest part of the job.

The timing was bad. It is awkward to approach people in the Christmas holiday period in any case, and feeling down, drained and anti-social doesn’t help. The last thing I wanted to do was to knock on strangers doors, and then even worse: with my supervisor looking over my shoulder while I worked, judging me.

I worried about the evaluation for two days and almost managed to convince myself that I was no good and would totally stuff up and loose my job. Then the day came, and for every door I knocked on, I prayed there would be no one home. This being the holiday period, it would require some sort of divine intervention to make the wish come true. It didn’t come true, of course.

In fact, once my supervisor was there and I was ‘on’, I managed to get my act on again and was smiling and talkative (after my standards).

I did one interview, had a few no-one-home knocks, and not-now-please visits under my supervisor’s hawk eyes. The interview went well, it had a few little twists which I solved. The feedback afterwards was all good:

  • Interview: word-for-word correct introduction, good at handling interruptions (!), good at interacting with respondents (!) and staying on track
  • Contacting respondents: ‘friendly and gentle’ style, could be more assertive. My strategy was accepted when I explained it, because I have good results
  • Procedures: all correct
  • Response rates: good. Apparently they’ve had a history of issues and poor response rates in my region, and my response rates is a significant improvement***. I’ve even had a 100% response rate**** for one of my recent assignments, which is apparently unusual down here
  • Office feedback and cooperation: consistently good & thorough work, very receptive to feedback – immediately implementing changes when asked to
  • Positive feedback from respondents, who they’ve called up for quality control

She went on to say that they are very happy with having employed me and consider me to be a lucky find. All sunny!

I gave her my feedback as well. She has been consistently clear and constructive in her communication all the way through and very easy to work with. Unfortunately she will soon be leaving her position.

I said that I can handle a higher workload if it becomes available. I’ll be given an easy, occasional side-job (not much, but nice work), and she noted that I’m open for more assignments (not that there are any at this stage).

— So rather than the anticipated disaster, the job review turned out to be a surprising mood lift! Yay!



* I would have used the metaphor ‘a fly on the wall’, but since it is outdoor…

** The selected households (the sample) can not be replaced by ‘the neighbour next door’ et.c. like some of them suggest, because in order for the sample to represent the population (which is the point of doing the survey in the first place), the sampling has to be truly random. Random selection means that every household in the population has the same chance of being selected for the survey:

Simple random selection

Method of selection where each of the units in a population has the same probability of being included in the sample.

Quote: Statistics Companion by Erik M. Boeye, p.3

If a human such as myself or the respondents made the choices, then the sampling would be biased, meaning that not every unit in the population has an equal chance of being selected:


A systematic imbalance in the choice of units in a sample.

Quote: Statistics Companion by Erik M. Boeye, p.3

Brief lesson in sampling over.

I can recommend the book. The Danish version of it helped me to survive, and even like, Statistics during my BA programme.

*** I am not saying that luck and the nice summer weather doesn’t have anything to do with it

**** 100% response rate for an assignment = completed interviews with every member of every sampled household in that assignment


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