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How to Conduct an Interview

Updated on April 17, 2011
Conducting interviews gets easier all the time.
Conducting interviews gets easier all the time. | Source

So, you’ve landed an assignment for work or school that requires you to conduct an interview. Perhaps you are writing a news article or a case study. Even if you’re usually quite comfortable around people, you may be nervous to some degree about calling up someone you don’t know. This is more common than you might think. You will likely find, however, that conducting interviews does get easier the more you practice it. If there are lots of interviews in your future, rest assured that you will continually improve and get off to the right start by following these tips.

First of all, find out as much about the topic about which you are interviewing the person as possible before you call her. You don’t want to waste her time by asking her to explain something to you that you could have found in two seconds with a Google search. You also want to have the best ideas for questions to ask her. Write a list of questions you want to ask your subject. Make sure they are open-ended questions to get her talking so you’ll have the richest content to include in your writing.

You’ll also want to have some kind of recording device set up so that you’ll be able to focus on the conversation as you’re speaking instead of taking notes. It is next to impossible to write as fast as people speak, and you certainly won’t remember it all, so this is especially important if you need to have direct quotes from the person. You must ask her before you start to make sure she is ok with you recording, though, because in many states it is illegal to record someone without her consent.

Once you’ve done all of the preliminary work, it will be time to jump in and JUST DO IT. You know it will have to be done so there is no point in putting it off (unless you have a very good idea of when the person will be most available in the future).

As you’re conducting the interview, listen to what she’s saying and ask follow-up questions according to her answers. Keep your list of questions but don’t feel that you need to stick to exactly what you wrote down. As long as you’re recording, you’ll be able to notice more of these opportunities instead of trying to frantically write down every word she says.

Once you feel you have enough information, thank her for her time, perhaps ask if you can follow up with her if you have additional questions, and hang up. Congratulations, you did it! Once the interview is over, you can listen to your recording and type up the valuable information.

Bonus tips:

• Listen to your voice in the recording, too. Do you use filler words like “um” or “like” that you can work on eliminating? Do you sound friendly and at ease, or do you sound curt, or nervous?

• If you’re writing on behalf of a company, you may want to avoid any potential problems by sending the subject you interviewed the article you wrote to make sure she is comfortable with how you are portraying her.

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