There are many opportunities that can call for a writer to do an interview. Therefore, knowing how to do an interview is an essential skill for a writer. Some people are natural interviewers. There are also techniques and procedures that can be learned. In addition to that, there is an order to the process than is important to follow for any interview.
Once it is known who is going to be interviewed and for what purpose, the research should begin. One does NOT want to do an interview or even contact the subject cold and unprepared. Everyone’s time is valuable, the subject and the writer. So be prudent and use time wisely. Along those lines, learn as much about your subject as possible beforehand.
Research has become very easy to do with the resources of the Internet at our finger tips. Most likely the person has a website, a LinkedIn account, a facebook profile and business page in addition to articles about them that can be found on google. Exhaust and dissect resources. This is a crucial step in the process.
Some people are informal interviewees, are comfortable with a spontaneous interviewing style. Others prefer to have a list of questions to use to prepare answers or have some idea of what is going to be discussed. Therefore, find out what your interviewees’ style is and prepare accordingly. Their comfort is your job.
Over time, I have come to realize the value of recording an interview. When I first started, I would interview over the phone and take notes at the same time. It was not a terrible way to work but it was not optimal either.
This brings up another issue. Is a phone interview, an in-person interview or a Skype interview appropriate? An in-person interview probably would be for a very special situation. So far, I have not had the need or opportunity to do an interview in person. Should I have the opportunity, I would want to keep the note taking to a minimum and pay as much attention to my interviewee as possible.
If you prepare a list of questions for your interviewee, have that list with you during the interview but don’t be glued to it. Do keep the interview to the time allotted. Most importantly, make sure that the amount of time the interview takes is convenient and confortable to your interviewee and stick to it.
Even in a phone or Skype interview, it is best to video or record the session, keeping note taking to a minimum. Focus on your subject. The interview is about watching and listening to your interviewee. In fact, the interviewee may alude to a completely new line of questioning that could add tremendously to the interview. You do not want to miss that by being distracted or not listening closely because you are writing or focusing on your next question.
If your interviewee shares confidential information with you, respect that and keep it confidential. Your entire career as a journalist can be in jeopardy if you cannot be trusted. Also, check and double check your facts. Accuracy is another indispensable trait to add to integrity on the list of qualifications for a journalist.
In all situations, you should have the proper appearance and/or demeanor. Whether it is a matter of your physical appearance, your behavior or your manner, everything should match what the situation calls for.
If something that you plan to write or include in your story is sensitive or questionable, double check with your source about it. I am not referring to investigative journalism. That is a whole different game.
If there is a deadline, be sure to meet it. Once you schedule your interview, plan your research and ‘gestimate’ how long it will take you to do your writing. Remember, it may involve more than one rewrite as well. Pace yourself so that you can do your best. A story based upon an interview with someone can be rewarding for both the writer and the subject.
Stay in touch with your subject. Let him or her know how the story is developing. When it is published, let the world know about it, too. If possible, hire a PR person to do the job for you. Celebrate. To put someone’s life, interests and accomplishments on paper can be rewarding and valuable. It is the documentation of something that might otherwise simply turn to dust and be forgotten.
Alison Gilbert is a Digital Age Journalist. She is a regular contributing author to DBMEi, writes The Marketing Byte Blog and is The New York Graphic Design Examiner. Alison is the owner of MARKETING BYTES Solutions 4 Local Biz located on Long Island, New York.
This boutique style – very personal service – hybrid company specializes in helping local/small biz generate sales leads by combining the best of traditional advertising with the latest online marketing technology. Contact Alison Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 516-665-9034 EDT/NY/US. MARKETING BYTES serves local/small businesses virtually everywhere.
- How to Conduct an Interview
- How to Conduct an Interview Like a Journalist
- How to Conduct an Interview by Justine Labalestier
The Charrette Chronicles This is a series of articles I wrote about the Charrette Corporation, a company that no longer exists but one that was extremely successful in its day. My research has been based completely on primary sources (the founders, former employees, thanks to LInkedIn, and store architect). This is a some times rare and always very special way to get to write a story.