Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1999

Publication Title

SECOL Review





First Page


Last Page



The purpose of this study is to investigate the nature of interview styles at a privately funded social service agency. At this agency, which helps people in a financial emergency, clients are interviewed by volunteers to determine the clients' eligibility for financial assistance. In this paper, I test Levinson' s (1992) definition of activity type through an examination of how interviewers, within the beginning moments, share knowledge of the social service interview with the clients. Specifically, I explore how two volunteer interviewers open sessions with their clients. Three different interviews were recorded for each of eleven interviewers at the agency. The data reveal two distinct interview opening styles, one of which is cleariy more beneficial to the clients because the clients' understanding of what is expected of them in the interview setting helps to determine appropriate linguistic contributions to the interview. The conclusion explores the importance of these findings in relation to social service agencies and to discourse studies, as well as to issues of race and gender.