Whether you are a researcher, journalist, or a student preparing for your dissertation, at some point you will need to conduct an interview.
Whilst the final report will be something you have crafted, the essential information is the result of the interviews conducted. Some will flow like a conversation with an old friend. Others will require hard graft to get any usable quotes.
Getting valuable content is largely down to your interviewing skills.
**Here are some essential tips and techniques for the perfect interview: **
1. Research the Interviewee in Advance
Do some homework before your interview. A simple Google search on an individual should pull up some background detail on your subject. Checking for a LinkedIn profile is a good place to start.
Knowing specific information about your interviewee shows that you are prepared and can help you think of questions to ask.
For example if you were interviewing a chef, an unprepared interviewer might ask ‘Where did you train?’ An informed interviewer could ask, ‘How did your Le Cordon Bleu training in France influence the style of cuisine you cook today?’
2. Write Out the Questions You Want to Ask
First, think about the objective of your piece. Are you just seeking general background information? Is the interviewee part of a profile piece? Do you want on the record quotes from an expert?
Then begin formulating the questions that will help achieve that goal. Write them down and make sure you think of way more than you’ll possibly have time to ask.
Aim to have a sequence to your questions. Group topics and themes. However, be prepared to move back and forth between your lists to maintain a natural flow.
3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Avoid questions that will result in just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Phrasing your questions appropriately will ensure you obtain detailed and interesting information.
Rather than asking a chef, ‘Did you like cooking as a child?’, ask ‘What things or people influenced you to become a chef?’
Questions like ‘How did that make you feel?’, ‘What was the best/worst….?’, ‘What do you think about…?’ and ‘Why did you decide to…?’ are great open-ended questions for delving into an interviewees’ personality and getting useable opinion quotes.
You can also use open-ended questions to probe further into your interviewees’ meanings and motivations. To explore a topic further, ask ‘Would you tell me more about that?’, ‘What would you like to have happened?’ or ‘Was this what you expected?’
4. Remember to Use Good Listening Skills
A good interview requires good listening skills.
First, conduct the interview in a place that will have minimum distractions. You will want to be able to hear and be heard clearly.
Next, adopt an open posture. Don’t cross your arms and sit up straight. Keep eye contact and stay relaxed.
5. Avoid Interjections
The natural tendency of most interviewers is to mutter encouraging words like ‘Uh huh’, ‘Yes, I see’ or ‘I bet!’.
Doing this can interrupt the flow of thought from your interviewee. Additionally, if you are recording the interview for a podcast it will interfere with the interviewee’s voice on the recording.
Instead, maintain eye contact and use non-verbal queues like a nod of the head, a smile, or raising of the eyebrows to keep the interview moving.
6. Record the Interview
In all types of interviews, a method of recording the responses is essential.
Ideally, you want to have a digital recording using a high quality audio recording tool This allows you to focus on the interviewee’s non-verbal behavior as well as making it easier to think of additional follow-up and probing questions.
Just be sure to get the consent of the interviewee first.
If they decline to be digitally recorded, then focus on writing down just the key points or the most interesting quotes.
7. Have Your Interview Professionally Transcribed.
Once you have completed the interview, you will need to transcribe what was said into a word-processed document.
Transcribing your interview is essential to ensure both the accuracy of what was said as well as to make story connections.
Transcribing can take a very long time if done manually. A 10 minute interview could easily take an hour or more. However, a professional transcription company like Happy Scribe can provide an automated transcription in minutes.
8. Analyze the Interview
Now that you have the transcribed interview, how are you going to analyze it?
To begin with, consider deleting background information or snippets where the interviewee didn’t keep to the subject. This will help you from including unnecessary information into your final product.
Next, group information that touches on the same themes and topics under bolded subtitles. This will help you to quickly find the relevant information as you write your piece.
Finally, think about the angle of your story or the hypothesis you are trying to prove in your research piece. Are there quotes that directly illustrate your points? Highlight these and the most relevant information for use in your piece.
The Bottom Line
Interviewing does come easier with practice, but hopefully these tips and techniques will help ensure a successful interview whether or not its your first or your 100th interview.
Do you have any other great interview tips? Let us know!