Consultative interview

$0 to $1k
estimated cost of external help
  • Scan and research
  • Explore options
  • Prioritise options
  • Consult
0-2 weeks
estimated run time
3-5 weeks
estimated lead time
Strong communicator
recommended experience
A one-on-one meeting with a set agenda of questions. Usually, many interviews are conducted and the results compiled to form the overall engagement results. An interview allows for a safe and protected environment where the stakeholder can feel comfortable sharing their views without the influence of others – and without fear of repercussions, as the results are typically anonymised.

Consultative interviews are a good complement to predominantly quantitative engagement techniques such as surveys or polling. They allow you to explore the reasons behind answers and some of the influences that otherwise might not be obvious.

In 5 steps...

  1. Determine the purpose of the interviews and who should be interviewed. It could be random or it might relate to another process, such as selecting from those who answered in a particular way in a survey, so that issue can be further explored.
  2. Determine your questions. Make sure that these are open-ended and encourage the person to talk, but do not lead them or imply you have an angle on the subject matter.
  3. Invite interviewees into the process, ensuring that they are able to get to the venue and be available at a particular time.
  4. Conduct your interview. Ensure that you are not disturbed – the interview should take place somewhere the participant feels they can talk without being overheard.
  5. Compile your results using a thematic analysis, to make the results of many interviews meaningful to your project.

When to use it

When you want to understand a subject’s feelings and their reasons for holding a particular view. Interviews can uncover things that aren’t observable by an outsider.


  • Quick but detailed feedback.
  • Ability to explore the rationale behind views or opinions.
  • Participants are not influenced by others in the room.
  • Allows each participant’s voice to carry equal weight.
  • Allows the in-depth discussion of issues.
  • Low to no confrontation.
Long term
  • Increased understanding of the complexity of local issues.
  • Higher-quality, better-aligned solutions.
  • Better communication involving the public on issues of concern.


  • Your sample size is unlikely to be representational. If a particular aspect becomes influential in the decision-making, ensure that additional quantitative research is completed to confirm the significance of a finding.
  • Can be expensive, as each interviewee may receive compensation for their time.
  • Analysis of results can be time-consuming.
  • The formation of questions can and will affect the results you get. Getting advice from experienced interviewers can be beneficial, to avoid leading participants.



  • Prioritise your questions. If you can only get through, say, five, decide which are the most important to your output.
  • If a question is particularly important to your process, consider how you can ask it in different ways. This will reduce the chances that the question itself has a correlation to the type of answer you receive.
  • Be prepared to go to participants rather than expecting them to come to you, as this may improve the response rate.
  • Book more interviews than you need – participants regularly drop out at the last minute.

During the process

  • If you plan to record the interview, ensure you have permission first – and a record of that permission. If the interview is anonymous, ensure you do not mention the participant by name after recording starts.
  • Take note of any body language or other cues that may tell you something about how the person feels about an issue or what they are saying. If they don’t appear to believe what they are saying, it’s important to not go on to your next question but rather to try and reframe your last question, ask related questions, or even directly address their discomfort by asking them if they feel nervous or conflicted.
  • Remain neutral but encouraging in your demeanour throughout the interview.


  • Compile results using a thematic analysis.
  • Provide feedback on what compiled data was used to inform decision-makers and how participants contributed to the process.

Also see:

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