Interview Tips

Tips for a Successful Interview

If you are required to include a first-hand source in an assignment, or if you are specifically required to interview someone for an assignment, the following will help you conduct a successful, professional interview.

For in-person interviews, keep the following in mind:

  • Call or email in advance to set up the interview; do not simply drop in on someone you wish to interview.
  • Let the interviewee know over the phone or in your email what it is you want to talk to her or him about; this will give her or him time to think about the topic before the interview actually takes place (and perhaps get handouts ready, etc)
  • Ask the interviewee how much time she or he has for the interview. Base the number of questions you will ask on that time frame. You don't want to ask too many or too few questions.
  • Once you are in the interview, make sure all of your questions are answered. Sometimes an interviewee will ramble and not really answer your questions, so you want to be sure to lead the discussion back to your questions to be certain you obtain all the information you need.

For both in-person and over the phone interviews, keep the following in mind:

  • Write down all of your questions ahead of time and have them handy during the interview; this will insure you don't forget to ask something essential.
  • Write down or tape record your interviewee's remarks. Don't rely strictly on your memory for remembering comments. You will undoubtedly forget something important if you do.
  • Always ask the spelling of both the first and last name of the person you are interviewing. This will prevent you from making an embarrassing mistake (and from having to call the person back).
  • Don't limit yourself to the questions you have written down; often an interviewee will provide you with some information that naturally leads to another question. Go with the flow of the interview, and try to capitalize on the knowledge of your interviewee.
  • If you discover that you are unclear about something you wrote down during the interview (either a direct quote or some general information), call the interviewee back and confirm the information. No one wants to be misquoted; the interviewee would much rather have you contact him or her again than to be misquoted.

For written/email interviews, keep the following in mind:

  • Allow sufficient time to receive your responses back. Don't send your interviewee the questions on Monday and expect an answer on Wednesday.
  • Limit the number of questions you ask to five or less. You are more likely to get a response if you don't overwhelm your interviewee with dozens of questions.
  • Be sure to send a "thank you" letter once you receive the responses to your questions.