Interview Preparation Tips

I love being interviewed and to interview. Its a sort of hobby for me. Interviews matter. Interviews are the foundation of good reporting. They are the best way of understanding a complicated situation and seeing it from someone else’s perspective.

Tips for Preparation:

Choose the right format. Sometimes a face to face interview is good. More often, for me, a phone interview works best.

Face to face. For a feature about an individual, I like to do several face to face interviews.
The first is really a get-to-know session without notes and off the record. It is a reconnaissance. Then the major interview. Finally a follow-up interview around the time I’m writing the piece.

Phone interviews. I love phone interviews. There’s something confessional about them and it’s easy to strike up a rapport with someone. I type quickly enough to take a more or less real time transcript during a phone interview which makes this form of interview particularly efficient. Also, a phone interview cuts out travel time and waiting around for people to turn up. Also, it makes interviews much easier to schedule as most people can find 20 or 30 minutes in their diary but a face to face interview seems to require an hour and a lot more commitment.

Avoid email interviews. I’ve done two or three email interviews in my time and they’ve all been unsatisfactory. The results have been stilted and unnatural.

Have a backup. For face to face interviews, I prefer to use two recorders or one recorder and hand written notes. Nothing could be worse than getting back from an interview and finding that you didn’t have any record.

Don’t give questions in advance. Don’t prepare questions in advance and always say no to people who ask me to send them a list of questions. This saves your interviewee from over-preparing.

Prepare and research in advance. At the moment, arranging the interview usually takes longer than actually doing it. Does anyone have any suggestions?


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