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Tips on Conducting Interviews

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In our information-hungry age, good interview skills are a must, no matter the profession. These tips relate to interview tactics essential for journalists, but they work well for anyone in the business of gathering information.

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Tips on Conducting Interviews

  1. 1. Tips on Conducting Interviews David Sheets, St. Louis Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists;content editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch / STLtoday.com
  2. 2. Good interviews startwith one essential piece of equipment:
  3. 3. Good interviews startwith one essential piece of equipment:That thing between your ears
  4. 4. Make arrangements
  5. 5. Make arrangements• Set up the interview
  6. 6. Make arrangements• Set up the interview• Introduce yourself: Say who you are, and give the name of your publication
  7. 7. Make arrangements• Set up the interview• Introduce yourself: Say who you are, and give the name of your publication• Give a reason for the interview
  8. 8. Make arrangements• Set up the interview• Introduce yourself: Say who you are, and give the name of your publication• Give a reason for the interview• Explain the focus of story
  9. 9. Prepare, carefully
  10. 10. Prepare, carefully• Do research, if only to sound intelligent
  11. 11. Prepare, carefully• Do research, if only to sound intelligent• Read information in print and online
  12. 12. Prepare, carefully• Do research, if only to sound intelligent• Read information in print and online• Visit libraries, government agencies
  13. 13. Prepare, carefully• Do research, if only to sound intelligent• Read information in print and online• Visit libraries, government agencies• Write down your questions as a guide
  14. 14. Prepare, carefully• Do research, if only to sound intelligent• Read information in print and online• Visit libraries, government agencies• Write down your questions as a guide• Take a voice recorder; ask permission to use it
  15. 15. Prepare, carefully• Do research, if only to sound intelligent• Read information in print and online• Visit libraries, government agencies• Write down your questions as a guide• Take a voice recorder; ask permission to use it• Take paper, pen (voice recorders break)
  16. 16. Break the ice
  17. 17. Break the ice• Start off with a friendly greeting
  18. 18. Break the ice• Start off with a friendly greeting• Remind the interview subject who your are, why you’re there
  19. 19. Break the ice• Start off with a friendly greeting• Remind the interview subject who your are, why you’re there• Say thank you again for making time for the interview
  20. 20. Break the ice• Start off with a friendly greeting• Remind the interview subject who your are, why you’re there• Say thank you again for making time for the interview• Casual conversation, or offer a compliment(house, office, clothing, job,
  21. 21. Keep questions short
  22. 22. Keep questions short• Speak clearly, use complete sentences
  23. 23. Keep questions short• Speak clearly, use complete sentences• Allow plenty of time for responses
  24. 24. Keep questions short• Speak clearly, use complete sentences• Allow plenty of time for responses• Listen carefully
  25. 25. Keep questions short• Speak clearly, use complete sentences• Allow plenty of time for responses• Listen carefully• Repeat the question / answer, if necessary
  26. 26. Keep questions short• Speak clearly, use complete sentences• Allow plenty of time for responses• Listen carefully• Repeat the question / answer, if necessary• If conversation wanders, gently guide it back on track (“That’s interesting, but ...”)
  27. 27. Keep questions short• Speak clearly, use complete sentences• Allow plenty of time for responses• Listen carefully• Repeat the question / answer, if necessary• If conversation wanders, gently guide it back on track (“That’s interesting, but ...”)• Be patient
  28. 28. Don’t try to sound smarter than you are. Be honest about yourselfand your limited knowledge
  29. 29. State right up front what you don’t know. People always want toshow off their expertise
  30. 30. Be specific
  31. 31. Be specific• Avoid questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers: Wrong: Do you know the way to Topeka? Correct: I know Topeka is west of here, but I’m not sure of the route. What roads would you suggest taking there?
  32. 32. Ask the 5 W’s and H
  33. 33. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who
  34. 34. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who• What
  35. 35. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who• What• When
  36. 36. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who• What• When• Where
  37. 37. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who• What• When• Where• Why
  38. 38. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who• What• When• Where• Why• How
  39. 39. Ask the 5 W’s and H• Who• What• When• Where• Why• How• Who cares? / So what?
  40. 40. Ask about specifics
  41. 41. Ask about specifics• How many?
  42. 42. Ask about specifics• How many?• What color?
  43. 43. Ask about specifics• How many?• What color?• How tall?
  44. 44. Ask about specifics• How many?• What color?• How tall?• Pay attention to the surroundings: Photos, trophies, wall hangings, furniture ... everything around you can be a source of conversation
  45. 45. Never be defensive
  46. 46. Never be defensive Don’t try to prove you’re right and the interview subject is wrong.The point is to gain information; defensive behavior only makes people non-talkative
  47. 47. Always be politeAlways be gracious
  48. 48. Always be polite Even if they’re notAlways be gracious
  49. 49. Always be polite Even if they’re not Always be gracious If you sense the interview subject is growinguncomfortable with the questions, back off a little
  50. 50. Say “thank you” again at the end of the interview
  51. 51. Say “thank you” again at the end of the interview Leave contact informationas a courtesy; your interview subject may have more to say later
  52. 52. In conclusion, always remember one thing:
  53. 53. In conclusion, always remember one thing:There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers
  54. 54. Tips on Conducting Interviews David Sheets Phone: 314-971-0073 Email: dsheets@post-dispatch.com Facebook: david.sheets Twitter: @DKSheets

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