How To Conduct an Interview

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.

Prepare

Do your research. Select an interviewee who can best provide the information you need. Learn the basics about the person before the interview.

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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.

Recording

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.

Post-interview etiquette

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.

Comments

  1. says

    Danielle, thanks for the tips. I was recently asked to consider writing an as-told-to book with some ministry friends–they have quite a unique story.

    Do you have any recommended resources for writing as-told-to at book-length? Thanks!

    • Danielle says

      Hi Brock,
      It is a little late in coming, but I wanted to respond to your comment. Non-Fiction book-length isn’t my strong point, but a few over-all writing books that could be helpful include James Scott Bell’s Art of War for Writers, also Jerry Jenkins’ Writing for the Soul. They include excellent tips that will improve your writing, which will benefit your your project. I hope that helps and I hope you have good success with your writing!

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