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Interviews allow us to get inside a person’s head, hear personal feelings, ideas and opinions. The success of an interview depends on how prepared and skillful the interviewer is. It also depends on how the interviewer relates to the interviewee. There are 11 steps to conducting a good interview.

  1. Decide who to interview and the topic you want to cover – issues, personal achievements, beliefs. Write down the topics you wish to cover and create a list of possible questions.

  2. Contact the interviewee, by phone, letter or email, saying why you want to do the interview, the topics you wish to cover and suggest a suitable time and place.

  3. Research some background details on the interviewee – achievements, opinions, experiences.

  4. Prepare your questions. Ten to fifteen main questions is usually enough, with a few offshoot questions on each one. Learn your questions off by heart, but be prepared to alter and add new questions during the interview.

  5. Collect your equipment: pen and notebook, micro-recorder, spare batteries and tape. Check that your recorder is working.

  6. Choose clothing and appearance that are appropriate for your interviewee and the topic. Your appearance will affect how your interviewee responds to you.

  7. Organise your transport so that you arrive at the interview on time. It is better to be a little early than late.

  8. Introduce yourself and thank the interviewee for his or her participation. Ask for permission to use the recorder and ensure that it is as close as possible to the interviewee without being intrusive.

  9. Control the interview Make sure you:

    • are respectful of the person’s ideas and feelings
    • are confident
    • let the person speak freely without interruption
    • don’t talk about yourself unless asked, and then only briefly
    • are ready to ask questions that you have not prepared
    • check your question sheet to ensure you have not forgotten any important points.

  10. Thank the person at the end of the interview and explain that you will be sending him or her a copy of your report.

  11. Complete your report after the interview. Have the interviewee check your report before you publish or broadcast it.

Interview checklist

Use a checklist like this one to organise your interview:

Step Action Date Completed
1. Decide Brainstorm to choose a topic and an interviewee.  
2. Contact Ring, write or email the interviewee.  
3. Research Find out background information.  
4. Prepare Create questions.  
5. Collect Organise equipment.  
6. Choose Select clothing.  
7. Organise Sort out transport.  
8. Introduce Prepare introduction.  
9. Control Follow the 11 rules.  
10. Report Prepare report, check with interviewee, publish.  

Source: Peter Forrestal, The Active look It Up!, (second edition, 2006) Melbourne: Thomson Nelson.

Last up-dated 12 November, 2012
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© George Marotous. Melbourne High School English Faculty