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Are You An Interview Expert? I Need Your Advice!!

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I'm getting ready to do my first interview.  The person has agreed via email and now I am getting nervous.  I want to take full advantage of this opportunity especially since the person I am interviewing is located overseas.  Here are my questions...
*If you had a choice, do you prefer phone or skype?  why?
*Do you record your interviews?  If so, how? (other than taking notes by hand)
*Does anyone know if you can record a Skype conversation (this is a side-note)?
*How do you prepare for your interviews ahead of time?
*What kinds of questions do you ask?
*Any other advice?
#1 - January 16, 2011, 05:43 PM

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Here's my two cents (former journalist)--
1--I've never done an interview via Skype, but one advantage would be seeing the interviewee and being able to pick up on body language and facial expressions. Also, you'd get to see something of his or her surroundings, which can be revealing.
2--I always recorded my interviews, even the ones done in person. You have to make sure the subject knows it's being recorded though (get that on tape) and they have to agree (get that on tape as well). Usually you start off the interview with those formalities.
3--Don't know if you can record a Skype conversation.
4--Research the subject, come up with good questions!
5--Relax and enjoy it. Let your interest and curiosity make it more a conversation than an Interview. Follow interesting tangents.
 :goodluck and have fun!
#2 - January 16, 2011, 07:35 PM

HelenR gave you great advice.
Skype or phone, it's whatever you and your interviewee agrees to. Both work fine.
I record every interview. I also take a ton of notes--in case that recording doesn't work for some reason--it's happened.

Kinds of questions depend on so many different factors.
Is this a profile piece? A promo for something being promoted (a new book, film, or album) if you're interviewing a celebrity?
I research everything I can about the person and if you're interviewing a celebrity, ask their manager or agent if there are topics not allowed to cover.

When it's time for your interview, make sure it's at a time when you won't be interrupted by kids, spouse, dog barking, etc.

Relax and listen!

#3 - January 16, 2011, 09:13 PM
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I like to ask what questions I didn't ask but should have. Is there something interesting about them or their area of expertise that my readers need to know about?  Even if I forgot to include it?
#4 - January 16, 2011, 10:42 PM

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Another possibility for the interview itself is email. It takes the nervousness out for both of you and lets you each do your part at a convenient time. Assuming, of course, you have no doubts that the person will actually answer the email, and in a timely manner.

Do record (with permission) and take notes. You need two forms for back-up.

In planning, put yourself in your audience's shoes. (1) What do they want to know about this person (2) that they can't already find in a bunch of other places? Do as much homework as you can so your subject isn't repeating what they've already posted online, or stuff you should have learned from their literature, etc.

Balance planning with spontaneity. Have a planned set of questions, but be willing to follow interesting tangents, as others said. Be on the lookout (or listen-out :)) for a good closing quote.


#5 - January 17, 2011, 08:46 AM
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Thanks everyone for the wonderful words of wisdom.  You have given me lots to think about.  Any advice for recording phone conversations?  What device do you use?  I now have two phone interviews and one email interview set-up.  Do you ever find that language is a barrier?  My interviews are in Thailand.  Although they speak English, I think the email interview will be broken English.  I am wondering how that will factor into "quotes".  Hmmm...  Anyone else out there with advice, keep it coming!
#6 - January 17, 2011, 09:36 AM

You got great advice here. One thing I'd recommend is to choose your words wisely. If possible get a list of the interview questions before hand so you won't stumble through your answers and ramble.  Interviews remain in print, on line and if on video, YouTube forever.  Remember first impressions are everything.

I've had the opportunity to inteview some heavy hitters like Sara Gruen, Jon Clinch and most recently Melanie Benjamin and their answers are "timeless", meaning they apply to their accomplishments now as well as when they first started out.

Good luck!
#7 - January 17, 2011, 10:01 AM

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Shoniker, I just wanted to repeat what Brenda said but in reverse: send your interview questions to the person you're interviewing, so they have time to prepare some great answers. Some people give great quotes/anecdotes without having to think about it, others might need a bit of prep time. Unless you're hoping to catch someone out (which presumably you're not) it makes sense to give the interviewee a good idea of what they'll be answering.
#8 - January 17, 2011, 01:10 PM

Any advice for recording phone conversations?  What device do you use? 

Digital recorder--think I got it from Radio Shack.
Also, right from the top, always let the person know that you're recording the conversation.

I've done a few Skype interviews, too, and there's software for recording sound.
#9 - January 17, 2011, 02:44 PM
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I give you this advice as someone who has worked in radio, television and weekly newspapers - think of the interview as a conversation. You need to come out of the conversation with certain information, but let the conversation flow. Also, allow the person to pause. Sometimes what they say after a pause is even better than what they said before. Make sure your questions are open ended so they can't give you a yes or no answer. But most of all, just have a conversation, take lots of notes even with the back-up of the tape recorder. You will retain much more of what that person says if you are taking complete notes. It saves you time when you are going back to pull out the information you need.

#10 - January 17, 2011, 03:49 PM


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