How to Snag One!
I had a rather high-profile interviewee featured on my site last week. And a question I kept getting was “How did you get her to agree to be interviewed?”
Short answer: I asked!
No, really. It’s usually that simple. Most people love to be interviewed! All you have to do is ask them.
But there are a few more things you’ll need to keep in mind when snagging (and then conducting!) an interview. So here’s the longer answer:
- Be nice. Even though most people love to be interviewed, no one wants to be interviewed by a jerk. (“Be nice” is good advice outside of interviews as well!).
- Tell them it won’t take much of their time. When you hear the word “interview,” do you automatically think of an hour-long TV special? Or maybe a grueling job interview? A lot of people do! But the truth is, most “normal” interviews take 15 minutes or less. Let your potential interviewee know this. Especially when you’re interviewing someone ultra busy without a lot of time on their hands. (Which is, let’s face it, everyone).
- Let them know they’re important. Because they are! And because they’ll put more effort into it if they know it matters.
- Let the interviewee choose the date and time of the interview, but… make sure it’s well in advance of your deadline. And let them know you’re writing down the date/time they’ve chosen so they understand it’s a firm deadline. (This is mainly for phone/in-person interviews. E-mail interviews aren’t as strict, but we’ll get into that further down).
- Know who you’re speaking with ahead of time. This should be a no-brainer.
- Know what they do. Sometimes you know who you’re going to be speaking with, but you don’t know what they do. I had an incident like this back in 2006 when I was honored with a chance to speak with Daniel Clowes for a reporting gig I had at the time. I had a general idea of who he was and what he did, but I knew I risked rehashing old news and asking stupid questions if I didn’t study up on him. So I read every piece I could find on him and even bought/read some of his comics! Familiarize yourself with your subject. This will even allow you to…
- Write down some questions ahead of time. You’ll think of more questions as you go along, but you’ll want to have a few “starter” questions to get things rolling. Don’t walk into an interview and say “Oh, um, hold on a second while I think of something to ask you.” Ugh.
- Show an interest in them and what they’re doing. Think you’re going to get a good interview out of someone when you’ve got your chin on your palm and your eyes half-closed (“Yaaaaaawn…yeah…uh-huh…that’s nice…”)? NO WAY! You get what you give. Be friendly and open. No one wants an indifferent (or angry!) interviewee.
- Warm them up. Don’t just jump in. It’s the equivalent of going to class and having the teacher yell out “POP QUIZ!” Yuck! That won’t make anyone happy. And it’ll make for a stiff interview. Take a little time to engage in some friendly banter before grilling them with questions.
Ways to Conduct Interviews
There are three main “ways” to conduct interviews: