High-quality data collection depends upon the utilization of high-quality data collectors who are able to effectively establish a respectful rapport with their respondents. These high-performing field interviewers are capable of eliciting the nuanced information that is necessary to ensure that comprehensive and representative data is collected during the interviewing process. While different interview methodologies require different skills, all field interviewers must have strong interpersonal skills, a high degree of reliability, and organizational competencies. Headway in Research is proud to employ skilled and experienced data collection staff, and to introduce you to them in our ‘Field Data Collectors’ series.
Being a field interviewer is a rather unusual job. What is it about this type of work that appeals most to you?
My initial interest started with the very first field interview position that I was offered regarding farmworkers and labor trafficking. Both of my parents have been farmworkers in the fields of Florida and they would describe to us their daily lives and struggles; however, I wanted to understand more in depth and Headway offered this opportunity with their collaboration with RTI.
What do you think is the greatest challenge in survey research interviewing and how do you overcome it?
I believe that the biggest challenge is realizing that not all individuals are interested in the research that we are conducting. Even if the research has a lot to do with the individual’s way of life and current situation, many individuals believe that there’s a mysterious, underlying reason why we are reaching out to them. I don’t blame them, but I also wish that they could offer the research interviewers an opportunity to gather data from them. I believe that in the studies that I have participated, there have been many individuals that could have greatly contributed to the data with their answers; however, due to their insecurity and uncertainty of the study, they are not always open to answering the questions we have.
What characteristics do you think are important for field interviewers to have in order to be successful?
I believe that the most important characteristics are being approachable and have a personality that makes the interviewee secure and comfortable. An individual may have all the experience, but if their personality does not offer a welcoming sensation to the interviewee on their first encounter, it would be difficult to amend the relationship. First impressions are crucial in this field of work. It is important to be professional and knowledgeable of the study and your position, but a smile and a friendly face can go a thousand miles.
What has been your most rewarding and/or enlightening experience working in survey research?
The most rewarding experience occurred a couple of weeks ago when the first study I participated with RTI and Headway has finally been published. This particular study concentrated on the labor and human trafficking incidents occurring in fields/farms in North Carolina. Initially, this had been a topic that I became very passionate about because we would never imagine that people would be living in the circumstances that they’re living in right in our wider community. It was so fulfilling to see concrete data confirm that this was happening within the borders of our state and to have this in the light was a step toward progress. I am very appreciative of all the individuals that opened their life stories and personal information to make this study a success and an evidence to the horrors many people face.
What advice would you share with someone who might be considering this type of work?
I would advise to individuals to really get engaged into the study they are working with. Whether it be regarding beer marketing to human trafficking, data collection is crucial to the outcome of a study. Thousands of dollars are being poured into the industry to gather greater knowledge on various topics and it’s essential that a field interviewer be passionate in gathering quality and integral data for the success of the study – no matter what the study approach and topic is. Passion to the study leads to a successful project, which also leads to greater knowledge of individuals interested in that specific topic. As mentioned in the above question, the passion that my co-workers and I exerted in the project, in turn delivered a publishing that will, i’m sure, change someone’s life and seed a new idea to a solution.