Always Nail Your Interviews
With These 4 Simple Steps

Always Nail Your Interviews With These 4 Simple Steps

Written by Soul Witness
🕒 April 22, 2021

Conducting interviews are, of course, one of the main duties of a journalist. However, if you’re new to the business, some interviews can seem daunting and even downright intimidating.

When it comes to preparing for an interview…you’ll need to do exactly that…

Step 1. Prepare.

That may sound like common sense but, you may be surprised how often some people who work in news really don’t do their homework.

Since the pandemic hit, we’ve had to get even more creative with interviews. But the good news is, the following tips apply to in person interviews, interviews via Zoom, and even phoners!

Pro Tip: When preparing for your interview, you should do the leg work beforehand. You can start by researching the topic itself. For example, ask yourself these questions: Have any other articles or stories been done about it? If so, what do those say or show? Were those articles missing anything?

After looking into the topic, you should feel comfortable having a discussion about it. That way, if the interviewee doesn’t address something, you can bring it up. Also, being knowledgeable about a topic helps you recognize when an interviewee purposefully dodges a question, or “forgets” to talk about a specific issue.

This preparation can lead to another question: How can your story be different than stories that have been done on this topic before? This question can also lead you to other areas you may not have investigated or paid attention to during your initial research.

Step 2. Do your Research.

Next, research the person doing the interview. While you won’t be able to do this every time, there could already be information about them out there. Especially if you are interviewing a public figure, politician, author, celebrity, business owner, etc.

Do they have their own website? That may already have their bio on it. And of course, in this day and age, most folks will have a social media profile. This is a great place to start.

From there, you can at least glean enough information to ask them some of personal/humanizing questions like, “I saw the pictures you shared of your dog named Spike. What breed is he?” This can also help you build rapport with the interviewee and put them at ease a bit more.

Step 3. Develop.

After that, develop your questions. These questions need to address “the issue” from all angles. This is where you can delve into the topic, and prove that you’ve researched it.

You can also play “the opposition’s advocate” here. For example, there is a new water system being built in a city. How will it impact those who will benefit from it? Will they now have clean water? More water pressure?

On the other hand….How will it impact those who will not benefit from it? Are people being forced off their land? Were they consulted before construction began? Will all taxpayers be footing the bill even if they don’t live in the area?

Rule of thumb: Most likely, you will already have some of the answers before you ask the source…if you have done the proper research. If not, then keep digging.

However, it is perfectly okay to not have ALL the answers. We as journalists should be learning something new every day, right?

Step 4. Never Fake it.

Now, sometimes we just get thrown into situations as a journalist. No prep time. Zero help. No previous experience with that scenario. Nothing. That just happens. But how do you deal with it?

I’ll tell you how not to: by faking it. People will respect you way more if you are honest, and say something like, “I believe in being fully transparent. I just got a call to come cover this topic/event/etc. and this is the first time I’ve been here. Can you help me understand what’s going on?”

Or you could say, “This is actually my first city council meeting. Could you explain the process of how these meetings work, and what just happened with item C or (insert topic)?”

People can spot a fake a mile away. Just be nice, be honest, be fair and do your job to the best of your ability. If you take that route, no matter what, you’ll earn the respect and trust of whoever you’re interviewing and your community.

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