Emergent behavior at oxide interfaces has driven research in complex oxide films for the past 20 years. Interfaces have been engineered for applications in spintronics, topological quantum computing, and high-speed electronics with properties not observed in bulk materials. Advances in synthesis have made the growth of these interfaces possible, while X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) studies have often explained the observed interfacial phenomena. This review discusses leading recent research, focusing on key results and the XPS studies that enabled them. We describe how the in situ integration of synthesis and spectroscopy improves the growth process and accelerates scientific discovery. Specific techniques include determination of interfacial intermixing, valence band alignment, and interfacial charge transfer. A recurring theme is the role that atmospheric exposure plays on material properties, which we highlight in several material systems. We demonstrate how synchrotron studies have answered questions that are impossible in lab-based systems and how to improve such experiments in the future.