Helping the interviewee feel at ease

Start by briefly explaining who you are

Let them know who you are and why you’re interviewing them.

Use a dictaphone but don’t hold it in their face

So that you can concentrate on listening to what your interviewee is saying to you, rather than frantically making notes, sue a dictaphone. Put it somewhere near to them and then ignore the fact that it’s there for the rest of the interview. If you hold a dictaphone in someone’s face, it can be very off-putting for them.

Likewise, don’t wave a list of questions around either. Keep your questions to hand, but try not to constantly look at them. It’s far better to look at the person you’re speaking to.

Use friendly gestures

Nod so they know you’re listening, make eye contact and smile occasionally.

Let them talk

Stay quiet and let them talk and finish what they may want to say. Don’t jump in with a new question while or interject with “yeah” or “I see” etc. This can interrupt the flow of their answer.
Note: If you plan to use the audio for soundbites, this is particularly important.

Make notes of things to come back to

If the interviewee mentions something that you don’t understand in the middle of a long explanation, jot it down and remember to ask them to explain further about that point once they have finished answering your original question.

Leave a gap after their answer

Leave a small gap after an interviewee has seemingly finished answering a question before you ask the next one. People naturally rush to fill in any gaps, and the interviewee may say something better or more succinct than what they said before in that small, inviting gap. Some people will naturally want to summarise what they’ve just said.

Be aware of different types of people

Preparing questions in advance is a good idea so that you can be sure to get the ball rolling without too much awkwardness. Everyone is different. In some cases, you may find that you only need to ask one question before an interviewee will chat quite happily, moving on to new topics without any intervention on your part. Other people will need to be guided towards information that you’d like to hear.