Tips for Interviewing

Listen to what the person you are interviewing is saying.  Don’t be thinking only about the next question you’ve prepared.  They may say something unexpected, or revealing, and if you don’t hear it – you’ve lost it.

Show professional courtesy to an expert you’re interviewing by taking the time to learn a bit about the topic.  Don’t do the interview “cold”.  Be diligent and professional enough to spend some time “prepping” for the interview, even if it’s only a quick Google search.

Be up-front with what your story is about, so you can give an interview subject the proper opportunity to present their side of the story.  (From Joel DeSpain, award-winning former WISC-TV reporter.)

Some of the best interviews are just conversations with people.  Pin the wireless mike on them, and let it roll.  Some folks, particularly those not accustomed to being interviewed, might “shut down” if you over-emphasize the fact that tape is rolling.  (Also from Joel DeSpain)

If you don’t understand the response you’ve gotten to an interview question, ask for clarification.  The person you’re interviewing will understand, particularly if they’re an expert in some field.  You can’t tell the story if you don’t understand it.

Control of the interview is often an issue.  One of Johnny Carson’s favorite lines was “at what point did I lose control of this interview”, which never failed to get a laugh.  But there’s another important issue of control, involving “questions in advance”. WGN-AM Chicago talk show host Dan Deibert says “to this day, I have yet to do an interview with someone that set “ground rules”.  I’ve always looked at it as my responsibility as an interviewer to ask the questions that were on the mind of most people.  I guess the pressure to get the interview makes some interviewers cave.”