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Interview Best Practices

Before for The Interview

Email or call your potential interviewee at least one week before you wish to interview her.

  • If you do no have an established relationship with the interviewee, explain who you are and why you are contacting them (how you found out about them). You might include the link to your blog.
  • Explain exactly what your project is, how it will be distributed (on the web where anyone can see it), and why you want to interview her (what important information or perspective she will bring to the project).
  • Have the interview questions available to share with her if possible. Give the interviewee the option to veto any questions they wish not to answer.
  • Be prepared to answer questions.
  • If she agrees to an interview, establish a time and place that is convenient for her. Conduct the interview in a quiet and private space such as a home or office. The Morgan Library has rooms that you can reserve for such purposes. Inquire at the library ahead of your interview if you think one of these rooms would be a convenient location for the interview.
  • Make sure you have preferred contact information for your interviewee—best to have both email and phone number.

Email or call two days before the interview.

  • Remind him of the time and place of the interview.
  • Send the interview questions if you have not done so already. Explain that you would appreciate it if he could take a few minutes to review the  questions.
  • Emphasize that you are happy to answer any final questions he might have.

Test out your recording equipment ahead of time.

  • Make sure to charge batteries if necessary and clear enough digital storage space for the recording before the interview. The video cameras and audio recorders you check out from me should have nothing on them—you can clear the memory if they do.
  • Record audio as an Mp3 or WAV file.
  • Do a test recording under conditions similar to those of the actual interview. Make sure you are getting adequate sound whether you are recording just sound or using a video camera.
  • Use a tripod when recording most video or you will have an unsteady shot suitable for only a low-budget horror flick.
  • Make sure you can get the recording onto your computer and that the file will import into the audio or video editing software you will use.

During the interview

  • Refrain from interjecting your comments while your participant is talking. Such comments may cut the interviewee’s answer short and make the interview more about you than him. This will also be important if you do not want your image and/or voice to be in the final cut. If you want the interview to be talk show style with you present as the interviewer or host, then some interjections will be OK. If you want to use the interviewees responses to questions the way you might use a quote from a book in a written essay, then you will not want your voice or image on the recording except when you are asking formal question in between responses.
  • Ask follow up questions if you would like more detail. It’s OK to deviate from your prepared questions if the interview is going in a different, but fruitful direction. Just make sure not to get so off script that you forget to ask questions that are essential to your project.
  • It is fine to skip questions if it becomes clear that they are not relevant. Make sure to give the participant the option of answering all the planned questions, but if you both agree that a question or series of questions are not relevant, it is fine to move on.
  • Keep the interview on time. When you have reached the last ten minutes of the interview time, make sure to alert your interviewee of that and skip to any essential questions that have yet to be asked so you can get them in before the scheduled time is up as your interviewee may not be able to stay late.
  • At the end be sure to thank your interviewee, and ask if she wants a copy of the interview.

After the interview

  • Make sure to stop the recording and save it to your hard drive or memory card. (see Audio & Video Best Practices for more information about editing and saving your work.)
  • When your project is finished, email your interviewee the link so she can watch/listen to it.

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