Interview tips, part 1

This is one of those weeks where I have a lot of interviews for articles.  It ebbs and flows, but it made me think about what makes for a good interview.  I’ve shared these tips with students, but haven’t posted them before.

Do your background research. While the point of doing an interview is to find out more about your topic and the person you’re interviewing, you need to have done enough previous research to ask intelligent questions.  Asking basic questions you could easily find answers to will turn the person off right away and waste both your time and theirs.

Be professional. Some chitchat is OK to put people at ease and remind them that this is just a focused conversation, but keep on topic and don’t share information that’s not relevant.  For example, if you’re talking to someone for information on yoga, then don’t go into a story about how your dog got all muddy over the weekend.  Be sure also to use titles when appropriate.  Definitely do research to know whether the person has an academic title to use, such as “doctor.”  And, of course, speak with proper grammar.  Be sure to keep background noise to a minimum as well.

Have questions prepared. You need to know what you’re going to ask.  I always type my questions up in a Word document.  I bold the question, then type the responses in plain text beneath the question.  For in-person interviews, I write the question number in my notebook for each response.

Don’t be afraid to ask additional questions. While being prepared is important and keeps you from stumbling over yourself (and keeps you on topic!), make sure you are listening to the person enough so that you can ask additional questions relating to the topic.  Some of my best information from sources has come from when I asked a followup question.

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