CATI Survey Method
4 April 2017

How to become a telephone interviewer

I have always had problems explaining to my friends what my job is all about…has it ever happened to you?

A few nights ago, while I was hanging out with some friends, a person, who was curious about my job , asked me information about the interviewer’s role. No, there were not any drugs around and yes, we were sober. His curiosity  just comes from a desire to know what does really happen within this mysterious world that  telephone interviews represent. He thought it was a simple job, in which the only effective skill is asking questions in a right way. I tried to explain to him that things don’t absolutely go that way.


Because you need the X-factor guys. Really, I am not joking. To become interviewers you need the right mix of natural talent, a know-how, an appropriate training in the company and, above all, you need to know how to calibrate the timing and the tone of communication.

But first things first.

The first aspect we ask for, in IFF is to speak properly in their own mother language without a strong local dialect. The second aspect is that the future caller will have to speak fluently at least one foreign language, we only consider native applications. The third characteristic that we consider is the tone of voice : It must be softly, warm and reassuring. If during the selection the candidate will also prove that he can communicate in a loose and relaxed way, now it will be time for the second step: getting in my clutches. No, come on, I am not so bad, I am just quite pretentious . If I see great potential and the candidate convinces me, he will go on field, then to the supervisors, and finally he will set a day to start training. If you want to know the world of telephone market research, in my opinion, it is also very important that you read the book Telephone Surveys in Europe: Research and Practice, it is the only one on the subject.

Let’s find out what happens next.

What is the process of training an interviewer based on?

The first phase concerns the vision of a visual contribution, a long tested method  in IFF and that always offers us great guarantees. (Link to post the video training)

Data collection: the most important step of an interviewer’s job

The biggest aspect that has always guided me in the caller’s selection and training  is : “we are all able to read a question but not all of us are able to understand what the person is telling us”. So we should not focus too much (or only) on the pressing question of the moment: collecting data is essential for an interviewer’s job , as much as the ability to ask questions.

The video training phase is not enough; We have to consider that many callers start from zero, and they have no idea of what market research are. You just need to be crucial in the first stage of training, candidates must be watched carefully while they take their first steps by giving them direct and continuous feedback. On the first day’s project which will be given to him, the caller will have our supervisors always in tow, they will be in fact, under a  ” special surveillance” subjected to audio monitoring. We will always be there to listen to what they flag according to what the respondent will answer.

The aspects of a perfect interviewer

There are some elements that a perfect interviewer must have.

He must never influence the respondent, in any case.

He must psychologically involve the respondent. All this means convincing the target person to participate, to understand that his role in this survey is very important . The contribution of the respondent is essential to improve products and services that eventually will also be targeted to him, so the ability must be to present the interview as an opportunity to express an opinion on what the respondent consumes: this is the focal point where our callers need to focus on.

He must never change the script and even the definitions, because it is not a coincidence if the question is written in a certain way. Changing the text could put respondents in a position to not understand the question and we are not allowed to provide explanations.

He has to collect what the respondent understands about the question : even the “don’t know” answer is a valuable data.

After the phase of evaluation of quality, we look at the terms of the caller’s productivity. Everyone answers differently: usually , the callers who are very good and precise in collecting data, tend to become the less productive elements, because their interview lasts much more than someone who is faster. The best which we aim to is the balance between quality and quantity, being able to get during the working hours (similar to all) the same performance (but a few parameters come here into play such as strike and duration of an interview (I need to enter here backlink on the article on how long an interview should last), crucial elements to understand to what point the production is ).

What kind of attitude should a perfect interviewer have ?

We have to assume that there is no attitude more than another that may open the way to become an interviewer, but surely there are some aspects that, added together, can hep us to choice a new winning caller over another. That’s because our experience made us a sort of psychologists, just enough to make us greatly smooth out customer’s expectations and the interviewers potential.

Each interviewer has its own personality, our role consists in training it, improving it and letting it grow. There are some shy interviewers or others who are more enterprising, proactive and assertive. A good supervisor can read inside each one of them by anticipating and guiding them to a training path . Normally the supervisor  identifies weaknesses in each of them, and tries to assist and propose them many solutions, suitable for any of their personalities.

You can become an interviewer if you have a right attitude, but not only for that.

So what are the main aspects to become a good interviewer?

  • Sociability
  • Extraversion
  • Resistance
  • Resilience
  • Open-mindedness
  • Intuitive
  • Zen attitude

A caller might think to give up a thousand times during his training path, he might be mistreated by a respondent,  his body might not hold the initial stress of a lot of information in a short time, he might wish for a mentally quieter job . And here comes into play again the supervisor: if he realizes that the caller can really be an asset to the company, he will be able to help him by overcoming with him the problem.

A caller is a sort of little hero, or however a person able to coach a so deep inner calm in order to get a result even when it seemed impossible, and now if you feel like giving up your job to run as a caller for IFF International, change your mind now. No, just kidding, maybe I could be your supervisor and together we could learn to overcome professional boundaries but especially human limitations, which will always remain, after all.

If you need help, write me

Ennio Armato (Branch Manager, Italy)

Other Articles

If you need a quote for a...