Today, I was part of a CSUN Latino Journalist project. I was asked by a friend/colleague to give a, “Basics to Interviewing” workshop. The DO’S & DON’TS to a successful interview. Although I will admit that I am and will always be a student of Journalism (I believe in growth…you never stop learning), I decided to create my own list of do’s and don’ts (especially because it was hard for me to find any tips online). From my years of experience (about 4) as a journalist, and from having studied it myself (SFSU-BECA), I came up with the following:
- Be prepared. Prepare a list of five (short) questions. These questions will sum up all you need to know about your interviewee. Do you have your recorder ready? What about batteries?
- Take notes. Just enough notes of specific times and topics.
- Ask more. If you’re not limited with time, ask away. Ask questions that are relevant.
- Stay in control. Never let your interviewee hold the microphone or ramble on.
- Stay focused. How is the interview going? Make sure your questions are being answered.
- Be confident. Be confident in yourself and your questions. Feel free to be creative; how could your questions be different?
- Make conversation. Prior to the interview, and even after the interview. You want your interviewee to feel as comfortable as possible.
- Thank your interviewee for his/her time.
- Make sure you have the direct contact information. Record his/her FULL NAME, age, & occupation directly on your recorder, or camera.
- Assume. Don’t answer the question for your interviewee even if you both already know the answer.
- Interrupt. Sometimes we learn something new about our interviewee that might make the story more interesting.
- Ask close-ended questions. Stick to open-ended questions.
- Ex.) Who will you vote for this election? vs. what do you think about the two candidates in this election?
- Wait. We sometimes wait until the end of an event to seek that interview that we desperately need, only to find that it is too late.
- Hhhmmm, ok…. yeah, (giggle). Smile as often as you’d like, nod, but avoid making any sound. Remember, NAT sound.
- Argue with your interviewee. Stay calm, and professional.
- Be afraid of silence. If your interviewee is taking long to answer a question, give him/her time.