If content writers stick around in the media for long, chances are that they’ll be required to gather information first-hand by interviewing sources. Here are a few pointers for the uninitiated.

Though there’s plenty to be said on the art of interviewing–in fact, books have been written on the subject–here’re a few notes to start the uninitiated. Plenty more will follow if only the team starts interviewing sources first-hand.

Go prepared. Do research on the subject (the interviewee) as well as the subject matter before the big day.

–          The amount of research on the subject depends on why you are interviewing that person. Is it for an interview feature/profile feature or in-depth discussion, or the interviewee is one of the sources for a feature?

When you first meet the subject, introduce yourself, hand over your card, and do a bit of chit-chat. Tell him what you do at our publication. Explain a bit about the piece you are working on and where does the interviewee fit in the subject.

Take along a pen, a writing pad, and a recorder. In the notebook, write down the important points and note down the atmosphere and observation of the surroundings (for profile features, etc.). Also jot down the timing on your recorder when key issues/subjects were discussed.

Get their business card or note down their contact details. Never forget this. Card provides us with an interviewee’s name and designation correctly, besides of course, having his contact number. In case you have to clarify something later on, you’ll be kicking yourself for not asking for his business card.

Discuss things as if in an informal conversation. The idea is to make him feel comfortable.

–          Ask open-ended questions to get the subject (the interviewee) to open up.

–          No questions that just require a yes or no out of the interviewee.

Listen carefully and try to give interviewee the impression that you are completely into the conversation. Don’t interrupt him abruptly as this might put him off and the discussion will not be fruitful. But you can politely steer the conversation in the right (focused) direction in case the interviewee goes off on a tangent.

Ask the interviewee for a possible second sitting or at least further discussion through telephone.

Try to enjoy the conversation. The difference between a good interview and bad interview is whether you enjoyed having that conversation or not. This also holds true for public speaking.

Keep a camera with you. We need a good photo of the subject to go along with the piece.

Any questions? Just get in touch with me.

Harpreet Bhagrath