Doing Great Interviews


Never interviewed someone before? It's not really that hard and just takes a little thought, beforehand. Here are some tips that will help you get the best response from your subject:

  • Do a little research before the interview and use it to form your interview questions. Whatever knowledge you can bring to the interview about the subject's environment, company, lifestyle or profession will help you 1) gain credibility with your subject and 2) quickly access the most interesting information the subject has to offer.
  • Prepare your questions, in advance. While you want to be ready to ask questions "off script", come prepared with, at least, some preliminary questions to get you started.

  • Write questions that are "open-ended", meaning they won't just solicit a response of "yes" or "no."
  • Ask your interviewee to elaborate if he or she responds with short answers. Get more details if you think they will add color to your story. You can give them examples of the depth of detail you're looking for if they're stumped.
  • Make your interviewee comfortable. People generally interact with more enthusiasm when they're relaxed. Ask your subject if they'd like to sit or stand. If your subject seems rushed, tell them you'll keep your questions short and ask your best questions, first. Try to quickly gauge whether your subject responds better to a formal or more collegial form of interview. Adjust the language you're using and general attitude, accordingly.

  • Be a good listener and never assume that you know what your interviewee will say next. This will help you listen more closely and identify the unique aspects of who they are, what they're saying.

  • An interview can be a conversation. If you think it'll help your subject open up more, react personally to your interviewee's answers. Be careful not to let your interjections get in the way of letting them tell their own story!