Interviews give us a glimpse into a person, the person’s thinking, their world-view and their opinions on important matters. They are one of our most human, real, and interactive ways of getting to know someone. Interviewing someone is a skill that requires tact and knowledge. It is a vital skill that is equally handy for school and college students, as it is for more grown up people.
Be it a ‘celebrity’ a student needs to interview on a school visit for a school-paper or publication, or a working professional is to interview a visiting dignitary to the office, or moderate an event/conference; the rules and basic requirements to conduct an effective interview stay by-and-large, the same. Here I’d like to share my top 5 tips to conduct a great interview.
- Research: One must research the Interviewee/Subject thoroughly. Most of our research nowadays is done on the Internet. There are however dangers to this kind of secondary research since the internet is populated with incorrect information. So while researching on the web, ensue that you use multiple sources/websites/platforms and check your information against many sources. Second, try to always read up previous interviews that your interviewee might have granted reliable media. And third, don’t just focus your research on the Person but also gain a deep understanding of the field/sphere/world that the interviewee belongs to. If you are for instance interviewing a politician, then ensure that you know, in addition to information about the individual, about the political party, the ideology, the history and the current context of that person’s political allegiance.
- Occasion: One must also be conscious of where and during what event the interview is taking place. If for example you were to have a Film Director visit your School over Annual Day, aside from asking him/her about films, it would be prudent and appropriate to ask the person about their opinions on schools and education as well. After all, that is the event, occasion and circumstances in which the person is present right. So always keep in mind the forum at which the interview is taking place and include the occasion by asking specific relatable questions.
- Be Polite: In an era where we are bombarded with interviewers who are rude, aggressive and persistent; it is always a more mature approach to be friendly, kind and polite in one’s interviewing demeanour. I personally don’t subscribe to the ‘pressure-tactics’ and coercive interview style that many have adopted. Even if there is a question that you want to ask that seems uncomfortable or is being evaded by the interviewee, let it go, ask a few other questions, and then come back to it in a differently worded manner. Be polite and be kind. It always makes for a more immersive and meaningful interaction.
- Pre-Meet: It is always a great idea to try and meet your subject in advance. Be it a day in advance or even if it is just a short while before the actual interview; a mere ten minute face to face meeting between interviewer and interviewee helps break the ice, establish rapport and comfort level, gives the two individuals a chance to get to know each other a little and allows the interviewer to share the line of questioning he/she has in mind and ask for the interviewee’s consent. All this advance-preparation goes a long way in ensuring a smooth, honest, and free-wheeling interview that translates in obvious camaraderie on-screen as well as in print.
- Conversational: Finally, keep the interview conversational. There are two human beings talking, not a machine interrogating another machine. Engage, listen carefully, and develop the chat organically. Often times we get so caught up with our predetermined questions that we forget to even listen, and irrespective of the interviewee’s responses, we surge forward with our line of questioning, irrespective of it making sense or not. By listening carefully, we give ourselves the freedom and liberty to stray from our script and ask questions that are more natural, ensuring that the interview is more instinctive, logical, and engaging for the two people concerned, as well as for the viewing/reading audience.
We seek interviews because we want a peek into the minds and hearts of well-known individuals who might just share insights that enlighten us. Because we expect them to open-up to us, we must in-turn treat them with the respect of being well-prepared, and well-mannered.