Tips for Conducting "In Person" (face-to-face) Interviews
If you are a writer or self-publisher that are times when an
interview will be required to add an extra dimension, insight or
more depth to a project you are working on.
In offline interviewing there are generally three ways to
conduct an interview:
1) In person (face-to-face interview) 2) By telephone 3) By mail
In this article I will be focusing on the "In person" (face to
Many beginner writers find interviewing a daunting experience
and avoid doing interviews even when it would benefit what they
are working on and make the project more complete.
Beginners Tip: To overcome your nervousness practice, and then
practice some more, on your family and friends before ever
requesting your first "live person" interview.
Below you will find a few tips for when the day arrives and you
need to conduct THE INTERVIEW ...
Tools you will need:
=> Cassette Recorder
=> Notebook and Pen
=> Press Pass
(I carry my press pass with me to interviews, however, this is
not a necessity for carrying out interviews. If you do have a
press pass remember to take it along with you though as it is a
sign of your professionalism when you introduce yourself)
=> Background Research:
Do your homework on the person before going to the interview.
This could involve a search of the persons online press kit
page, through media press clippings, at the library, the who's
who directory etc.
Having some background knowledge will give you greater
self-confidence and will help give a stronger line as to the
questions you may want to ask.
Interviews can be 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour or over the
course of a month or more e.g. if you are doing an
When you make a time for the interview propose to take at least
Suggest you go to the persons, home, office or place of business
- being in their own environment will put them at ease and may
provide the right background to your interview.
Dress appropriately for where you are going, and who you are
meeting. As a rule wear clothes that will not cause offence as
many people you meet will be very conservative.
=> Preparing Questions:
Rule #1 Don't ask stupid questions... and don't ask questions
you can find out through research unless it's to confirm a point.
Prepare your list of questions in advance jotting down the
questions and points you want to ask in brief heading form (they
should be used only as a point of reference during the
Maintain eye contact with the person you are interviewing as
much as possible.
Listen carefully and establish a relaxed style of questioning.
Allow the questions to flow according to the context, glancing
at your list only to refresh your memory or fill a long pause in
Be open to new questions and new points raised during the
interview. Flexibility in your interviewing will allow you to
pursue interesting or relevant sidelines as they come up. These
may be areas of activity that you are unaware of despite your
Don't worry about ending up with more information than you
require. Use what you need and put the rest in your files to be
used at another time.
=> Cassette recorder and notebook:
Check the cassette recorder batteries, cassette tape and volume
BEFORE you arrive for the interview.
Your cassette recorder should be compact, light and discreet in
appearance. I find it best to use a recorder that uses standard
size cassettes as they are easier to obtain than micro cassettes
if you find yourself in an out of the way place.
After the introductory formalities always ask permission if you
can use a recorder BEFORE the interview starts, then produce it
and get started on the interview. Few people object to a
cassette recorder but if they do, just use your notebook.
Using a cassette recorder helps establish an easy-going
communication between you and the person you are interviewing as
you are not constantly looking down take write notes.
Holding the recorder in your non-writing hand allows you to
operate the on/off button and to write any notations if needed
with your other hand.
Never thrust the recorder in a persons face as they will feel
self-conscious, causing them to become tongue-tied and awkward.
Use your notebook for the accurate spelling of names
(companies,locations etc), jotting down a few main points and
perhaps some question reminders for later.
Be careful when recording that you don't loose concentration as
this will "deaden" an interview.
Listen carefully to what is being said and be sure to understand
the answers otherwise it will be difficult to write clearly
enough for your readers.
If you don't understand something ask! "Can you put it into
simpler language?" or "Can you clarify that a little more".
If a person is evasive of a question or doesn't give an answer,
ask the question in a different way and at another point in your
If someone gives "off the record information" turn the recorder
off. Don't do too many off the record interviews as they don't
contribute to the information you require (your time is
valuable). Always Guide the interview process, but don't
dominate it. If the person strays too far from the subject at
hand,then quickly guide the person back. Don't forget to turn
the recorder back on when the interview proceeds again.
Tip: When you get home label your cassettes as you fill them so
there is no chance of accidentally tapeing over information you
want to keep.
Always Keep the cassette on file in case someone should ever
claim they have been misquoted.
If the interview is likely to be in any way contentious the
cassette should remain in your file for at least a year or two.
=> Photographs with the interview:
There are times when you may need to use a photograph of a
person for the project you are working on.
TIP: If you take photographs, always get a signed agreement
before taking them and as a safeguard for yourself have them
sign a Model Release Consent form. There have been many cases
when a person's photo has been used without his/her prior
consent and the person has sued for modeling fees, invasion of
privacy, or for various other reasons.
Take any photos you require at the end of an interview when the
person is relaxed.
If possible have the person do something that is relevant to the
interview rather than just standing or sitting.
Alternatively photograph the person in surroundings that have
meaning to the theme of the interview.
If this is not possible then just take a mug shot (a facial
close up) that you can use.
Note: People will sometimes cross out the word electronic on a
consent form and only permit their photo to be used in a print
publication. For a variety of personal reasons they may not want
their picture to be used on the Internet. Always respect their
request if this is the case.
=> Ask open-ended questions:
Asking open-ended questions instead of ones that invite a yes or
no answer will give more interesting responses.
These questions usually begin with who, what, when, where and
how, and cannot be answered with a straight yes or not.
Example: "When did you get into writing?" "what made you decide
on this particular area of writing"? etc.
This type of questioning sets the framework of the interview and
is a useful tool when digging for significant information. (also
you will have plenty of useable material at the end of the
Write up the information within hours of the interview if
possible or at least within a day or so.
As a courtesy, offer to send the person you have just
interviewed a copy of your article (send them a press clipping)
or to send them a free copy of your finished ebook.
NOTE: The person being interviewed does not get any payment for
doing an interview.