How to Conduct an Interview
COM 122
Writing and Research

How to do an Interview

First, make sure that your interview subject is appropriate to the topic you have chosen. I.e. don't interview a veterinarian about hepatitis in humans, but interviewing a vet who has hepatitis would be okay.

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Make contact with your interview subject well before the desired date and ask their permission to interview. Remember, they are doing you a favor by letting themselves be interviewed.

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Feel free to suggest a time, place and length for the interview, but let the ultimate decision be up to them. It is okay for you to be inconvenienced, but not them.

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At this time, indicate if you will be recording the interview in any way (cassette, video, etc.). Obey their request if they request no recording of any kind.

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Make sure that the interview subject is aware of the nature of your project. This gives them time to prepare and have the appropriate information ready for you. Beware of 60 Minutes style attack interviews; they rarely result in usable information, even on 60 Minutes.

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Prepare your list of questions ahead of time. Make a script of how you would like the interview to go. This will ensure that you don't forget questions or information in the heat of the interview. Always prepare more questions than you should have time for, just in case. Just because they are prepared doesn't mean that you have to ask every question on your script.

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If possible, forward a list of the most important questions to the interview subject ahead of time. This lets them prepare proper answers and assures them that you aren't hiding a secret agenda.

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At the time of the interview, BE ON TIME! They are doing you a favor, don't waste their time or cause them concern by being late.

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Before beginning the interview, restate the agreed upon parameters for the interview: time limit and recording medium especially.

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Always take notes. Even if you are recording the interview, take notes to record your immediate reaction to what is said. Do not trust yourself to remember after the fact what you felt through the entire interview.

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Remember that at all times the subject is in control of the interview. If they choose to not answer a question, go to the next question. DO NOT badger the subject. No Comment or I Don't Want to Answer That mean exactly what they say. Many times showing that you will honor their wishes will convince the subject to actually answer those earlier No Comments before the interview is over.

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ALWAYS stick to the agreed upon timeframe. Even if the subject shows no signs of stopping, when you have reached the agreed upon stopping time, offer to end the interview. If they choose to continue, then go ahead.

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Allow the subject to digress if they want. After a polite attempt to get back on target, simply let them say what they want to say. Sometimes good will come of this approach.

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Always thank the subject at the end of the interview, even if it was the most excruciating time of your life.

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Always offer to send a copy of the transcript or recording to the subject. Many times they will listen and add information later that they realize that they forgot at the time.

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Always offer to send a copy of the final paper to the subject. They obviously have no control over what you are going to say, but offering shows them that you have nothing to hide. It also allows them the opportunity to rebut or indicate misquotations.

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If you do offer to share a transcript, recording or final paper, FOLLOW UP IN THE OFFER! Make sure that you send a copy in a reasonable amount of time.

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Make sure that you include the interview in your list of sources, either the Works Cited or Reference list.

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