His job is knowing what others think

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 1996, 12:00am

William Chu Wai-leung, 25, is more used to interviewing people than being interviewed.

The social science graduate joined Asian Commercial Research as a field manager this summer after finishing his studies at Lingnan College.

His main duties are conducting opinion polls - interviewing people selected at random over the phone - and training and supervising other staff.

He and his colleagues have just carried out a poll on the popularity of the candidates for chief executive.

Although Mr Chu has not been working full-time for long, he is not a beginner.

He frequently worked part-time for the research firm when he was a student. What's on your mind? I'm the one who tries to find out what people have on their minds. This is my job, to find out what people think about current issues; what their opinions are.

It's not a matter of gossip. We and society value their opinions. Sometimes the results of polls can be very influential. That's why we have to make sure our polls are conducted in a fair and independent way.

The quality of interviewers is important because they talk directly to the respondents.

We read out the questions and aren't supposed to add our own opinions. How we present the questions may affect the responses and results of the polls. So we need to handle each call very carefully.

Are many respondents difficult to deal with? Hong Kong people are becoming more open-minded and are more willing to accept opinion polls. Today few of them speak rudely to us. They simply hang up if they're not interested in our polls.

Some people are suspicious and don't believe we're from the research company. And we need to spend quite a long time explaining to them who we are and where we come from. Others are talkative but just babble on about irrelevant things.

We ask a question but they give answers which have nothing to do with our questions.

What makes a good interviewer? Patience. No matter who the subjects are or how difficult they are to deal with, we can't lose patience. We need to be friendly and keep our voices cheerful all the time. No one's willing to talk to a person who's impolite, right? And we also respect those who don't want to help us.

So who's the best choice for chief executive? Sorry, no comment. That's our standard answer. We have to be careful what we say because our comments can influence others.