Organizations use a variety of interviewing styles to get information. Some help narrow down possible hires, while they use others to learn more about what customers want and think about products. The proliferation of technology has lead to a sharp increase in the number of communication methods, which now include not only phone calls but also Internet polls and email. A personal interview, conducted face to face, may be one of the oldest styles, but it still has several advantages.
Questions in polls and other surveys are in stasis: they cannot change once the form is sent out to the person filling it out. But in a personal interview the interviewer has a list of questions that only serve as potential ways to seek information. The interviewer has the flexibility to respond to the interviewee in a variety of ways, choosing to pursue some questions further while skipping unnecessary questions entirely.
No Time and Space Issues
For many interview methods, both time and space can get in the way. There can be delays in responses, which may confuse the usefulness of data. After all, an interviewee that takes time to think of an "appropriate" or proper response may have a completely different answer than a natural, instinctual response would create. But the interviewer wants that instinctual response and gets it most often in a face-to-face interview, when there is no time or space delay between question and answer.
A personal interview also gives the interviewer the ability to directly observe the subject, taking in all social cues that he would otherwise miss over the phone or in an online survey. Social cues can show hesitation, conflicting opinions and emotions that the interviewee may feel but not verbalize. These are all very important responses that can help interviewers understand the issues, especially when looking for a new hire.
There are some types of interviews -- in addition to scouting for new employees -- that simply work best as personal interviews, especially when product testing is involved. Organizations looking for reliable information on what customers think about products need to conduct focus groups with personal interviews that allow the customer to directly experience the product or service so they can form an opinion about it.