Whether you’re looking to quote an expert, report someone’s personal opinion, or tell a life story, you need to know how to master the well-conducted interview.
Do your research. Select an interviewee who can best provide the information you need. Learn the basics about the person before the interview.
Do your homework. Nothing shows a lack of professionalism like asking for information that can be easily found elsewhere.
Before the interview
Create a list of questions and then do a trial run on a friend to work out the kinks. Ask open-ended rather than yes or no questions. Ask for opinions and advice. “How” is a great way to start a question.
Use a recording device equipped with a lapel microphone for each of you. Never record on battery power, but take batteries along in case of a power outage. You may wish to take a few notes, just to be sure you get the basics if you should suffer a recording failure.
Conducting the interview
In-person interviews are best. Choose a place the interviewee is most comfortable, like their home or office. Avoid noisy public places or you may wind up with an unusable recording.
Dress and act professionally. Allow your interviewee to do most of the talking. When you speak, it should be to only ask questions or to make them feel as if the interview is a conversation. It’s their information you’re after, not your own opinions.
Respect their schedule by ending the interview when you said you would.
Always send a thank you note, preferably handwritten.
Be careful to use in context the information you glean. Rather than risk misquoting, call them to clarify any comments or facts you’re unsure of. Give credit where credit is due and fully cite your sources.
For other interview tips, see Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins, pp 24-28.
Danielle Grandinetti is a graduate of the Apprentice, Journeyman, and Craftsman courses. She enjoys writing teen fiction. Danielle is working on her master’s in communication and culture from Trinity International University.