Four obvious things I learned about interviews

After writing for The Signal this year, I realized some very simple things about interviews that I probably should have realized in hindsight. Here are four of them:

1. Bring a recorder.

It took me until my third interview to think to bring a recorder to one. Previously I used a notebook and pen but ran into problems getting direct quotes; my hand just can’t seem to move as fast as some people’s mouths. I’d always find myself missing the most interesting tidbits being said because I was writing down something else.

2. Do research beforehand.

You shouldn’t go into an interview blind. Some sort of research on the person you are interviewing, the field they’re in, or the topic of discussion could be beneficial to your interview. This insures that your interviewee doesn’t have to waste time explaining things and you can get right to the nitty-gritty. Any sort of knowledge of your subject’s field or prior work can “break the ice”, so to speak, and open up to you a bit more.

3. E-mail interviews: convenient but lacking in areas.

Most of my interviews have been conducted through e-mail. This I found to be beneficial to me at first; several times this year I found myself conducting two to three e-mails at the same time. But I soon realized the catch. E-mail interviews take an incredible amount of time; you might be inconveniencing both yourself and your subject in that manner. The interviewee might also feel a peculiar disconnect with you if the interview is conducted through such an impersonal medium.

4. Try to build off of what your interviewee said last.

This has multiple purposes. I noticed my best interviews, or the ones that garnered the most useful bits of information, flowed nicely between question and answer and vice versa. Secondly, connecting something said by the person you’re interviewing with some sort of personal anecdote or knowledgeable observation can close the gap between you and your interview subject.

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