Interviewing can be scary but it's also super rewarding! You get to find out first hand about interesting people and exciting projects, and you as a journalist get to be a part of some super insightful conversations. If you’ve never interviewed someone before, or have had very limited experience, you might feel slightly intimidated, but don’t worry! Here are some of my top tips to ensure a smooth and successful interview.
Do your research!
Going into an interview without any prior knowledge of the person is a BIG no.
If you don't have any knowledge about the subject it's going to be really hard to ask meaningful questions, so research beforehand is key. And by research we don't mean Wikipedia! Look at their work, social media and any previous interviews they may have done in order to gain a real understanding of who they are.
Know what your interview is about
Are they a band promoting a new album? Or a shop owner facing financial difficulties? Decide why you're interviewing this person and what information you want or need from the individual(s) involved before formulating your questions.
Make sure your interviewee is comfortable
Treat your interview like a chat. If time allows, try chatting to them a few minutes before starting the interview in order to help both them and you feel more at ease. This allows more space for your interviewee to open up and they are likely to be way more receptive to your questions.
Tailor your approach to the interviewee
Depending on your interviewee, don’t be afraid to push for a clear answer. Politicians are notoriously good (or bad?) at not answering the question you asked but the one they wanted you to have asked. Active listening is important to make sure they’re actually responding to what you asked, as is the research to challenge any claims they spuriously make.
Avoid overtalking on both sides
The interview isn't about you so remember not to talk about yourself too much. However, remember to interject at appropriate times to make sure all bases are covered and that your interviewee isn't overtalking. This isn't a one person presentation, it's simply a two way conversation.
Make sure your questions are appropriate
It may seem obvious but many people forget that you interviewee is human. It's possible to ask hard hitting and impactful questions whilst treating your interviewee with respect. Avoid personal questions with no relevance. For example if you're interviewing an artist ask them about their work, not their love life.
Your questions are a guide not a script!
Don't feel scared to deviate from your pre-written questions where feasible. Are they talking about something super interesting that adds depth to your original meaning? Ask them more about it. Your questions are a prompt you don't have to stick to them like glue!
Face to face is better
Whether virtually or in person, being able to see the other person's face usually gives you a better interview. This is because you can pick up their body language and gauge what questions they are more responsive to, allowing you to tailor the interview along the way. So, where possible, try and avoid sending written questions if you can.