This evening was our Interviewing Essentials class’ last meeting, so we did the best thing I could think of to finish off such a bullet-speed class: we made a master list.
A master list that I now transcribe here:
- Be yourself in interviews and be interested as a human being.
- Don’t apologize for doing an interview — believe that your story has value and that you’re doing your job.
- Be succinct and clear when asking for an interview.
- Do two interviews (if possible): use the first to get background information, then take a few days to get your thoughts straight and come back for a second interview to dive deeper into the story/subject.
- If not entirely interested in the subject, “act as if” you are, and you’ll eventually become interested.
- Don’t be afraid to ask abstract “feelings” questions.
- Watch people in action and moments to go beyond what a verbal interview can give you.
- Be prepared but not predetermined.
- Flattering and stupidity can actually be very helpful in getting a source to open up.
- Explain the context of what you’re doing at the beginning of the interview.
- Physical artifacts are a Godsend in getting a source to talk (I learned this in my interview at the Rock Bottom Comic Store).
- You don’t always have to save the tough questions for last; sometimes it’s best to clear the air when both you and the source know a topic is going to be hard to talk about.
- Slow down the interview.
- Don’t ask compound-complex questions; keep phrasing simple.
- Reflecting back to answers is a good thing! It slows down the interview and signals that you’re listening. Do this especially when interviewing sources in specialty fields.
- Don’t put your words in someone’s mouth.
- Remember that you advocate the truth of the story, not the source, but sometimes that’s the same thing (you advocate the story AND the source).
- Be frank and offer context when approaching rough questions.
- Know how to handle on-the-record and off-the-record policies and how to explain it clearly to your source so they understand the legal implications of talking to you.
- Treat everyone with dignity.
So that’s it. That’s the master list of what I’ve learned. I wish I could encapsulate every single story Jacqui Banaszynski told us and everything I learned through my interviews, but that would take an entire book.