EASY TIPS FOR CONDUCTING AN INTERVIEW
Does the idea of doing an interview make you shake with
If you're a nonfiction writer of magazine articles or
books, you must get past that fear. Interviewing is a necessary skill
There are three steps in doing an interview: preparing
for the interview, the interview itself, and digesting information from
Preparing for the Interview
· Contact the individual, and set up an interview time.
Set up a time and place to meet. Try to have the interview at either
the person's office or home. If you can't meet, set a later time for
a lengthy phone interview.
· Do research. Before conducting the interview, do some background information
on your topic. You don't want to go to the interview sounding uninformed.
If you're doing a profile of the person, learn as much about him or
her as possible. Ask him for a resume; look up magazine articles about
· Prepare questions. This is one of the most important elements in preparing
for an interview. Make as long a list of questions as possible (you
want to have enough for those quiet standstills during an interview)
and make the questions open-ended (ones requiring more than a "yes"
or "no" response). Ask a wide range of questions on everything from
his career to his family to his hobbies to the topic in question.
· Gather your materials. Take notebooks and writing utensils; take a
tape recorder if you like to use one; take a camera if there won't be
anyone else providing pictures.
The Interview Itself
· Start casual. Start the interview with casual conversation
- to relax the person. Talk about his day or something in his house
(or the weather!).
· Take notes. Learn to do "shorthand" notes so that you're not spending
all your time writing in your notebook. Use abbreviations and other
methods to make the note-taking process easy. As you take notes, mark
anything that jumps out at you (of, for example, he uses a good quote,
make a big checkmark by it). I prefer to use a cassette tape/recorder
too and then I've always got the tape to back me up if any questions
· Stay in control of the situation. Don't let the individual veer onto
topics that have no bearing on your topic. If he goes into tangent topics,
bring the discussion back around in as casual a way as possible.
Digesting the Information
· Organize your notes. Transcribe your notes into a
more legible form once the interview is over. As you go through your
notes, highlight anything that you especially like. Then let the material
sit for a day or two, and then go to work on it.
· Thank the interviewee. Write a thank-you note to the individual or
give him a call. Let him know that you appreciate his time. Tell him
you'll send him the published piece.