A good question can open so many doors. Too often, though, time-pressed professionals are tempted to treat an interview more like an inquisition than a conversation. Nuanced understanding and human connections are lost as a result.
As a young journalist, I would return from many interviews feeling that, although I got all the information I needed, I was still missing something. As my skills developed, I gradually learned how to conduct interviews that both yielded valuable data and provided unique insights.
The Art of the Interview is an occasional series designed to build critical interviewing skills. It’s aimed primarily at freelance writers, but professionals in other fields may find it useful, as well. I’ll be drawing from my more than five years experience as a daily newspaper journalist to examine the core strategies for conducting interviews that yield valuable information and insights.
Topics in this series will include:
- How to prepare for an interview
- Conducting interviews in person and over the phone
- Cultivating trust with interviewees
- Asking compelling follow-up questions
For me, interviews are at once the most rewarding and most difficult part of the news gathering process. They’re difficult because they require a unique set of skills, all of which have to be deployed simultaneously. While I’m listening to my source respond to a question, I’m also thinking about how this new information fits into the larger context of the story. I’m also jotting down notes and verifying information to ensure that I’m accurately reporting what the source is saying.
On the flip side, the challenge is also what makes it rewarding. A good interview requires you to exercise your empathy as well as your intellect. It’s an invitation to listen closely to someone else’s story and retell it to others as faithfully as you can. It’s a deeply human and humanizing practice.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of conducting an interview? What makes it rewarding? Add your own insights in the comments below.
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