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How to conduct a successful key informant interview

Welcome to Part 2 of the 3-part series: Everything You Need to Know about Key Informant Interviews. Our last post discussed how to plan a key informant interview. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can check it out here: 6 Tips for Planning Successful Key Informant Interviews.

Now that we know the steps in planning a key informant interview, we will discuss how to successfully conduct one.

This post will provide tips on navigating your overall interview. By this point, you have selected your interviewers and key informants. Now it’s time to grab your interview guide and conduct your key informant interviews.


Introduce yourself and share the goal of the interview. Use this time to share additional information about the topic you’ll be discussing. Explain who is involved and why their cooperation is important. Additionally, be sure to address the overall plan for the interview to include the format, length, and expectations.

The first several minutes of your interview should be used to develop rapport. This will help your key informants feel more comfortable, which will make them more likely to share their views and opinions. Begin by asking general questions about a subject of interest to the key informant. This is a great way to break the ice and get their opinion on a related issue.

Some examples include:

  • What projects are you currently working on that are related to this issue?
  • How can someone be more involved with your organization?
  • What do you hope to gain from this experience?


Use your interview guide to facilitate discussion during your interview. Be sure to follow the interview guide as directed to maintain consistency with all interviews. Draw on your key informants’ related experiences. This will help you gain specific input from their area of expertise.

Your interviews should flow like natural conversations and not a formal meeting. Use transition comments to guide your conversation and probe for additional information. Be engaged and ask your key informants for feedback. This is your opportunity to consider what recommendations or resolutions they can provide in addressing the issue you’re exploring.

As the interviewer, your goal is to make the interviews a positive and stress-free experience. Maintain a neutral viewpoint and avoid any distracting nonverbal cues. It’s okay if you don’t agree with your informants’ opinions. Your goal is to remain neutral and gather additional information about the issue. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that your key informants may not be familiar with. This will only cause confusion and may disrupt the interview. Also, practice cultural competence so you can accurately portray your key informants’ stories. Be respectful and ask for clarity as needed.

Be mindful of key informants’ nonverbal cues during the interview. Paying attention to nonverbal cues can help you better understand what is truly being said beyond just the words being spoken. During the interview, pay close attention to eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, postures, and other movements. This is a great way to gauge your key informants’ levels of interest and understanding.

Be sure to take notes and summarize details during your interviews. It will be helpful to record your interviews so you can go back and add comments that may not have been captured in your notes. Make sure you have consent before you record and/or take notes and have a plan in place to ensure the confidentiality of all informants’ responses.

Remember your purpose for conducting the interviews. You may interact with some key informants who ramble and provide long responses. Be comfortable with controlling the conversation so you stay on topic and get the information you need. Be conscious of the time and steer the conversation back when needed. As this occurs, be sure to stay patient, but reinforce the questions being asked.


Take a moment to determine if more information is needed. Follow up with questions that may be useful in gaining more insight or closing any gaps on the issue(s) discussed. It is important to make sure you have captured everything you need from your key informants.

Discuss next steps with your key informants and share how the data will be used. As you begin to consolidate your data, you may recognize gaps that your partners can help you fill. This can include providing connections to additional contacts, resources to support improvements, and sharing related data and information. Be sure to follow up and delegate specific action items as needed to your key informants.

Send a personal thank you to your key informants for their time and consider providing a token of gratitude, such as a reusable bag, water bottle, or pen.

Share the compiled results from all the interviews with your key informants. This will help to support further collaboration and improvements around the related issue.

I hope by now you are more familiar with how to plan and conduct successful key informant interviews. Our next post of this series will discuss how to evaluate the data you gather from key informant interviews.

Stay tuned!

Do you have any tips to share for conducting successful key informant interviews? Please share your experience below!
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Grant Readiness

August 6, 2019

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