Basics to interviewing: Do’s & Don’ts

Today, I was part of a CSUN Latino Journalist project. I was asked by a friend/colleague to give a, “Basics to Interviewing” workshop. The DO’S & DON’TS to a successful interview. Although I will admit that I am and will always be a student of Journalism (I believe in growth…you never stop learning), I decided to create my own list of do’s and don’ts (especially because it was hard for me to find any tips online). From my years of experience (about 4) as a journalist, and from having studied it myself (SFSU-BECA), I came up with the following:

DO:

  • Be prepared. Prepare a list of five (short) questions. These questions will sum up all you need to know about your interviewee. Do you have your recorder ready? What about batteries?
  • Take notes. Just enough notes of specific times and topics.
  • Ask more. If you’re not limited with time, ask away. Ask questions that are relevant.
  • Stay in control. Never let your interviewee hold the microphone or ramble on.   
  • Stay focused. How is the interview going? Make sure your questions are being answered.
  • Be confident. Be confident in yourself and your questions. Feel free to be creative; how could your questions be different?
  • Make conversation. Prior to the interview, and even after the interview. You want your interviewee to feel as comfortable as possible.
  • Thank your interviewee for his/her time.
    • Make sure you have the direct contact information. Record his/her FULL NAME, age, & occupation directly on your recorder, or camera. 

DON’T:

  • Assume. Don’t answer the question for your interviewee even if you both already know the answer.
  • Interrupt. Sometimes we learn something new about our interviewee that might make the story more interesting.
  • Ask close-ended questions. Stick to open-ended questions.
    • Ex.) Who will you vote for this election? vs. what do you think about the two candidates in this election?
  • Wait.  We sometimes wait until the end of an event to seek that interview that we desperately need, only to find that it is too late.
  • Hhhmmm, ok…. yeah, (giggle). Smile as often as you’d like, nod, but avoid making any sound. Remember, NAT sound.
  • Argue with your interviewee. Stay calm, and professional.
  • Be afraid of silence.  If your interviewee is taking long to answer a question, give him/her time.
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