Preparing for the interview

Be clear about your objectives

Do you know what you want your article or feature to be about? Keep that in mind. You often have a short time with someone, so keeping the questions relevant is important. If your objectives are in mind, it allows you to adapt your questioning during the interview should they something particularly interesting or relevant, or get off tangent.

Get to know a little about the person you’re planning to interview

Knowing who they are and what they do can help you to ask questions that are relevant. You don’t need to know everything about a person before you meet them. And in some cases (interviewing students, for example) it may be difficult, or considered inappropriate, to conduct research in advance. Often they’ve been recommended to you for a reason. If they are a member of staff or an alumnus then you can see what information is available on the University’s website or the alumnus’ business website.

Have a dictaphone or similar method for recording the interview

Check – does it have batteries that work, and won’t go flat during your interview? Are the levels set so that it will pick up everything that is said? Do you have enough space left on the memory card for the whole interview? Do you have spare batteries to hand?

Think about where you’d like to conduct the interview

A quiet, private space is best, as too much background noise will distract you all and will make the recording difficult to listen to. Agree a date and time with your interviewee. Face-to-face is preferred.

Prepare some questions

Remember to think about what you want to know about the person and why you are interviewing them, as well as what you already know about them. Having the questions written down will help you to keep the interview going and fill any awkward silences. It will make sure that you don’t forget anything that you need to know, and it will also help you to make it easy for the interviewee to say the things that will be useful and relevant to why you are conducting the interview in the first place.

Do you also need a photograph of them?

Think about whether you will also need a photograph of them for the article. You can ask them to send you any across they may have while you’re talking to them about setting up the interview. If it’s not suitable, you could arrange for a photographer to come along after the interview. Don’t try and do both at the same time. People can get very nervous with a camera around. But, a professional picture will make your article even better!