Increasingly we are asking students to write blogs and interview professionals as part of their research. I have a series of notes which might be useful for any student either doing academic work or more general research for their blog. I will post all the notes under the general heading of Interviewing for a Blog Post.
How to prepare: You can never be prepared enough for an interview. Professionalism and preparedness will be the least that your interviewee will expect.
Research, research research: The first thing to do is to research the person or people you are interviewing through their blog and other social media. Find out as much as you can. Research the company they run or work for. As a result of this research, you should get a good sense of their current status.
Prepare questions: Start to brainstorm some potential questions. You are unlikely to have a long time with them so you need some focus. Ask yourself: what do I want to find out? Is it about their management style? How they network? What aspect of their professional life am I interested in? How is the industry changing – their opinion on an industry sector and current trends or developments? You might want to go from general questions to more specific topics. This should result in a set of semi-structured questions to help you guide the interview but still allowing the process to feel like a conversation. Remember to ask open questions such as: How do you go about developing your networks? Not, do you network?
Time management: You need to think about practical things such as where you are meeting and how you will get there. Timing is very important – don’t be late! Check bus routes etc before the day of the interview.
Flexibility: Embrace the unexpected because real life does not always work out as you have planned it. For example, if you arrive all prepared and the person is running late, they might have a genuine reason and you should try to be understanding. However, don’t be shy about checking exactly when they will get there and asking to rearrange if you cannot wait.
Technology: Digital technology has developed in such a way that devices such as smartphones can act as video or audio recorders meaning that you may not need to invest in specialist equipment. However, if you have access to a good audio recorder or video camera then the quality will be of a higher quality. Whichever technology you use you should follow some simple rules about its use.
Be clear with your interviewee about whether you are recording to help you remember what was said, to support your writing, or you intend to publish the recordings themselves.
For audio recorders places the device as close to the person as possible. Even in a noisy environment your recording should be clear as long as the microphone is close to the person’s mouth.
A lot of video cameras have poor microphones so try to choose a quiet location as you want to avoid the camera being too close to the person therefore making them feel uncomfortable.
You might want to film a few general shots of the working environment of the interviewee. Do these afterwards. These shots can sometimes be useful when editing your video.
If you intend to publish your video interview then ask the person to look at you as they respond rather than the camera. Position yourself to one side of the camera and try to maintain eye contact with them. This can be tricky when using a hand-held camera so practice this before.
Be sure that your equipment works and that you have spare batteries (or your device is fully charged). As soon you can after the interview make a back-up of your recording to the hard-drive on your computer. Publish your audio/video material on hosting platforms such as Vimeo or Youtube (for video) or Soundcloud (for audio). You can then ‘embed’ the material easily in your blog post.
Check list to take to interviews:
Directions and/or a map
Contact details of your interview, address, phone number and email.
Some form of identification
Notepad and pen
The next set of notes will be about the interview itself.