Interviewing people is one of the toughest tasks as a journalist. As someone who writes facts and stories about people, it’s important that you know how to conduct a good interview. Since interviews have a limited time, you have to strategize in a way that you will cover a significant amount of information. In this article, we’ll talk about the five best tips you need to consider when interviewing people as a journalist.
1. Do your research.
Research the person you’re going to interview. Do they have social media? What do they like to post about? What does their bio say? Try to get as much information about the person as possible. The more prepared you are, the better your interview will turn out to be.
Researching should also be done properly. If you’re interviewing someone working in a specific industry, you should at least try to read about his job, his company, etc. Even people who tend to be “low-key” about themselves have some sort of online presence. So it’s truly important to do your research first before doing the interview.
Also, being prepared ensures the person you’re going to interview that you’re a professional who does his job right. Your interviewee will then trust you and answer your questions to the best of his abilities. If you can confidently show to your interviewee that you did your preparation right, you’re already ahead of a lot of other journalists.
2. Determine how to do the interview
The standard interview for journalists has always been in-person. However, today, it’s also acceptable to do virtual interviews over the phone, video, or email. Many interviewers always avoid email interviews so that they don’t get canned or rehearsed responses from their subjects.
The best way to have a successful interview is to send a calendar invite, a week before the event. This will help the person sync their calendar to yours. If certain problems arise, you can also see the calendar changes instantly.
3. Pick a Good Location
Find a place where you and the person you’ll interview will feel calm and comfortable. Don’t do your interviews in areas where there’s too much noise such as crowded restaurants or parks. If you’re going for in-person meetings, ask your interviewee the place they prefer to hold the interview.
This will help the person feel more comfortable when you’re asking him the questions. If person-to-person is impossible for your current conditions, video conferencing is the next option. There are tons of great conferencing platforms now to help you have a great video interview. If you decide to do a video interview, secure a quiet room in your home where you won’t be interrupted.
4. Write down questions in advance
Interviews should answer important, interesting, and controversial questions about the person you’re interviewing. Good interviewers always try to ask the toughest questions and are confident enough to ask them.
When researching questions to ask, don’t rely on things you learn from social media or the internet. Go deeper and find out what questions they are always avoiding, what people want to know, and what the critics have been saying.
There’s also a proper way of asking the right questions and having a good conversation with your interviewee. As much as possible, don’t open your interview with the hardest questions first. Start with easy questions that will lead to the tougher and more controversial questions in the later stages.
Here are some tips to help create good questions for your interview:
- Ask open-ended questions. Close-ended questions can usually be answered by just a “yes” or “no”. Open-ended questions should be answered by specific examples or numbers.
- Always end your interview with a question for additional information from your interviewee.
5. Make the Person You’re Interviewing Comfortable
Try to match the energy, mood, and body language of the person you’re interviewing. The more comfortable you make them feel, the better answers, and overall conversation you will have with them. Seasoned journalists even calibrate their tone to match their subject. They also know strategies to make the person they’re conversing with more open to them such as mirroring their body movement and showing their full interest in the conversation.
A journalist should also be sensitive about their interviewee’s feelings. Asking tough questions can make the conversation emotional and your interviewee might think that you’re trying to get them to say something wrong. So it’s important to be careful and wise about the words you use. When your interviewee is nervous and uncomfortable, stay calm and stick to the facts. If your interviewee gets upset, follow up with a question as to why they are feeling that way.
A good interviewer always exhibits curiousness without pretension. They know when to ask a follow-up question, when to listen, and when to be quiet. The best interviewers ask great questions and receive profound answers. They’re the ones who get past the surface and uncover something deeper which has not yet been explored.
6. Bring a Recording Device
Recording your interviews is important for both you and the interviewee. It doesn’t just allow you to review the conversation, it also helps you capture details that your might have missed during the interview. If you want to use quotes, an audio recording can help you include the exact quote from the interview.
Also, recording interviews will prevent he-said-she-said problems that might probably turn up later. So if someone disputes your findings, you will have solid recorded proof of what was said. Today, there are many online tools that can help journalists record and review notes with ease.
7. Transcribe Your Recording
Recording and creating a transcription of your interview is the best way to ensure the accuracy of your work. With a ready transcription, you’ll have no issues recalling interview questions and answers. Furthermore, good transcriptions allow you to quote interviewees exactly from the recording. This will help you provide better context and insights for your story or article.
Review the interview after the interview is still fresh in your mind. This will help you get the ideas right when you make an article or news story about it. As a journalist, it’s your job to write based on facts. Your career will depend on your ability to create a good interview.
Great interviews are foundations for amazing stories. Interviews don’t just help you learn something about someone, they also provide a glimpse about their thoughts, their life, and the events that will happen based on their current mindsets. As a journalist, you want to stand out. You want to make sure that your interviewee knows you’re prepared and you’re going to give him intelligent questions.