It’s not just reporters who conduct interviews. Students often find themselves having to do interviews as part of a class assignment. Human resources representatives conduct job interviews.
The list goes on.
So, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the concepts that have proven helpful as reporters prepare to conduct interviews.
So, here’s a checklist designed to help produce fruitful interviews:
— Do your homework. Preparation is the requisite to producing a solid story and is most important when conducting interviews. Find out as much as possible about the subject and the individuals. Review appropriate materials, and touch base with others who have knowledge of the subject.
— Avoid preconceived notions. Reporters should approach interviews with an open mind. If you enter an interview with a certain mind-set, the interviewee will likely take notice and information may not be forthcoming. .
— Dress for the circumstances. Be cognizant of the surroundings, and dress for the occasion. It’s no more appropriate to wear a sport coat and tie for interviewing a farmer in the dairy barn than it is to enter a chief executive officer’s office wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
— Be attentive to follow-up questions. Every reporter should have prepared questions for an interview. Equally important, reporters must be adept at asking follow-up queries during the course of a conversation with an interviewee.
— Ask open-ended questions. Pose a question that can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no,” and that’s likely the response you’ll receive. Frame questions so the interviewees must explain themselves.
— Make note of the environment. Reporters often reference the surroundings in a story. That may well help set the atmosphere. In some instances however, the description is out of place and can detract from the flow of a story.
— Use descriptive text when appropriate. Be selective when incorporating descriptive text in a story. A feature on a bellman will likely include details of the uniform. Conversely, the attire of an individual speaking at a public legislative hearing may not be relevant to report.
— Convene a conversation. Interviews should be a dialogue not dominated by either the interviewer or interviewee.
— Seek other voices. Few stories should be limited to “single sources.” The more voices in a story, the more well-rounded it will be. Incorporating the perspectives of others can be a valuable addition even in personality profiles.
— Decipher notes immediately. Record your notes as soon as possible, whether the story is due the next day or even weeks later. Nothing is more frustrating or embarrassing than being unable to read your notes — quite possibly to the detriment of writing your story.
Not all of those suggestions may pertain to other types of interviews, but I believe there are some constant themes to make note of. I hope they prove helpful.