HomeAcademic LifeWhat you need to know about the Ethics of interviewing

What you need to know about the Ethics of interviewing


Interviewing is a fascinating process, whether you’re a researcher, a journalist, a hiring manager, or a clinician. But with great power comes great responsibility. Let’s dive into the basics of ethical interviewing to ensure we treat our interviewees with the respect and dignity they deserve.

The Golden Rules of Ethical Interviewing

Ethical interviewing starts with obtaining informed consent. This means always letting your interviewee know what the interview is about, why you’re conducting it, and how the information will be used. Participation should be voluntary, and interviewees should feel free to withdraw at any time. Clear communication builds trust and ensures that interviewees feel comfortable and respected throughout the process.

Confidentiality and privacy are also crucial. Protecting your interviewee’s personal information is essential. If they prefer to remain anonymous, it’s important to respect that. Ensuring confidentiality not only builds trust but also encourages honesty. When interviewees know their privacy is safeguarded, they are more likely to open up and provide genuine responses.

Treating every interviewee with respect and dignity is another cornerstone of ethical interviewing. Avoid any form of bias or discrimination. Remember, everyone has a unique story to tell, and all stories are valuable. This respect for individual experiences helps in creating a positive and respectful interview environment.

Honesty and transparency are key. Be clear about your intentions and truthful in your communication. Misleading your interviewees is a big no-no. Transparency fosters trust and helps in building a strong rapport with the interviewee, making the whole process smoother and more productive.

The principle of non-maleficence, or “do no harm,” is vital. Ensure that your questions and the overall process do not harm your interviewee emotionally or psychologically. Being considerate and sensitive to their feelings and well-being is fundamental to ethical interviewing.

Utilizing Ethics to Different Interview Types

In academic research interviews, following your institution’s guidelines and adhering to the protocols set by ethics committees or Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) is essential. These guidelines help ensure that data collection and analysis are conducted ethically.

Journalistic interviews require balancing the need for public information with the privacy rights of individuals. It’s important to use quotes accurately and respectfully, making sure to portray the interviewee’s words and context truthfully.

For employment interviews, fairness and lack of bias are crucial. The process should be structured and consistent to ensure that all candidates are evaluated based on their qualifications and merits. Avoid illegal or inappropriate questions that could lead to discrimination.

Clinical and psychological interviews demand extra care, especially with vulnerable populations. Obtaining informed consent, ensuring confidentiality, and maintaining professional boundaries are key to conducting these interviews ethically.

Tackling Ethical Challenges

Ethical challenges often arise in interviews, and it’s important to address them effectively. Power dynamics can create an imbalance between the interviewer and the interviewee. Being empathetic and approachable can help mitigate this imbalance, making the interviewee feel more at ease.

Cultural sensitivity is another important aspect. Understanding and respecting cultural differences is crucial for ethical interviewing. What might be a standard question in one culture could be offensive in another, so it’s important to be aware and adjust accordingly.

Avoiding deception and coercion is fundamental. Never deceive or pressure someone into participating in an interview. Genuine, voluntary responses are the most valuable and ethically sound.

Learning from Real Cases

  • Journalistic Dilemmas: Think about cases where journalists had to choose between public interest and personal privacy. These scenarios highlight the importance of balancing ethical considerations.
  • Confidentiality Breaches in Research: Instances where researchers failed to protect participant confidentiality serve as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding personal information.
  • Bias in Hiring: Reflect on how unconscious biases can creep into hiring decisions and how structured, fair processes can mitigate this.

Best Practices

Training and education are essential for ethical interviewing. Continuous learning about ethical practices helps keep everyone on the same page. Regular training sessions can reinforce the importance of ethics and provide updates on emerging issues.

Creating and adhering to ethical protocols is another best practice. Developing clear guidelines and following them ensures that everyone involved in the interviewing process understands and respects ethical standards. Ethics committees and review boards can provide valuable oversight and guidance.

Encouraging feedback and improvement is also important. Interviewees’ feedback can provide insights into how the process can be improved. Regularly reviewing and updating interview practices helps in maintaining high ethical standards and adapting to new challenges.


Ethical interviewing is all about respect, honesty, and fairness. By following these principles, we can ensure that our interviews are not only effective but also ethically sound. Let’s commit to upholding these values and making the interviewing process a positive experience for everyone involved.


  1. Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. Sage Publications.
  2. Seidman, I. (2019). Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. Teachers College Press.
  3. Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., McNaughton Nicholls, C., & Ormston, R. (2013). Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers. Sage Publications.
Summer Leonard
Summer Leonardhttps://studentsnews.co.uk
Summer Leonard writes about students and school life. She shares practical advice and understanding based on her own experiences. Her writing aims to create a supportive community among students, helping them navigate the challenges of academics. Through simple and thoughtful words, she inspires and guides those on the educational journey.

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