20/20 #9 — Interviewing skills

• Research the subject. Know what you are talking about and what you are asking about. Unless you are interviewing a genuine expert, you should know more about the subject than the person you are interviewing. (examples: cuts to nursing home funding, changes to school busing)

• Know your interviewee. Get the name spelled right, know the position that s/he holds, know why they can contribute to the story.

• Be friendly. Yes—even if you are interviewing the “other side.”

• Be polite. Always. No exceptions.

• Have a prepared list of questions.

• Don’t ask the questions on your list. The list is for you, to remind you of what you want to know. Once you get started talking to someone, establish a conversational tone and get them comfortable talking to you. Use a question from your list to guide the conversation, but make it a conversation, not an interrogation.

• On the record is on the record. Be careful about going on and off the record. If you agree that something is off the record, then you set up problems in telling the difference.

• Say who you are and what the interview is for.

Questions for discussion:

  • Describe a good interview that you have done or watched or listened to or read. What made it so good Describe a bad interview. What made it bad?
  • How do you get accurate quotes?
  • What do you see as advantages to personal, telephone and e-mail interviews?

©2008-2011 Mary Turck