Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How To Conduct An Interview

Part of my job for the magazine I work for is to go out and conduct interviews.  With every story it is the starting point and, after my initial phone call to the interviewee, it is probably one of the most important aspects of my job.  It is here that I make a real connection with the people involved, as well as find out their story and take the photos that will go along with the article.
I haven't been taught how to interview but along the way I have learned what is the best way to conduct an interview and make the most of my time with my subjects.
Be yourself
Firstly I find it is best to just be yourself and act naturally.  A big part of this for me is dressing like I normally would.  I don't turn up to interviews all dressed up, in fact quite the opposite.  As most of my interviews involve me having to traipse around a muddy paddock and get up close and personal with farm animals, I always wear my farm boots (which are pretty trashed actually).  I will wear nicer jeans (although not my best), and a casual top, but I will take along my thicker warm fleecy lined jacket that I do wear out on the farm, because I don't know what sort of weather I will be facing and how long I will be outdoors taking photos.  Just make sure you are comfortable and not too overdone, remember, the focus is not on you during an interview!
Mud and all, these boots are worn to most interviews.
Create a good rapport
This is actually pretty easy to do, and half the battle is won because the people you are interviewing are usually pretty excited about having their story told in a magazine, so they are going to be pleased to see you and keen to talk to you.  I know I have found this to be the case at every job so far.  Acting naturally and being your usual friendly self wins people over every time.  You will find that it will actually work in your favour!  I've come away from interviews being given bags of mushrooms, eggs and free coffees, all because people have had this brief connection with me, as well as wanting to share the products they are producing.  As well as this I have also met some lovely people who are doing amazing things with their lives and at each and every interview I learn something new!
Before you leave for your interview make sure you have all the right equipment that you will need.  For me this means camera, tripod, spare batteries, spare memory card, notebook, pens, Dictaphone and spare batteries, iPad (to look up where I am going in case I get lost!) and, importantly, the address of where I am going.
Now photography is, of course, a whole stack of individual post topics within itself, but when I go out on an interview these are things I keep in mind:
*  Make sure your battery is fully charged
*  Make sure you take a spare battery
*  Know roughly before hand what sort of shots you want to save time
*  Do a bit of research on where you are going, who the people are and what the subject is
*  Be aware of the lighting and what settings you need to use for your camera
*  Think outside the square; take photos from interesting angles, different perspectives etc
*  Take close-up shots (they make good filler photos when accompanying an article)
*  Take portrait shots of the people you are interviewing.  Be aware of the background.
*  Take more photos than you will need! (it gives you lots to choose from)
Conducting the interview
When I hold the interview I always use a Dictaphone to record what is being said, simply because I would never be able to write down everything during what is usually a 25 minute interview.  I do take a notebook and pen and make notes as well, which includes writing down things like names and places.  I do this mainly so I make sure I get the spelling correct, which is vital because your interviewee would not be happy if they read your article only to discover you had misspelt the name of their property, their partners name or the names of their dogs. 
Let it happen organically
By saying this I mean to just let the interview go where it wants to.  I always start by asking how people started with their business/farming operation/hobby etc.  It is a great starting point and opens up the flood gates of conversation.  From there I find that the interviewee will just start talking and things will naturally lead from one point to another.  Since they are always passionate about what they do, and pleased to be interviewed for the magazine, I find they will always take me on a journey with their story and share all of the information I need to know.  I also keep my ear out for things that they say that will make good quotes.  I always like to put a direct quote or two within my articles because it personalises them, and the reader will then hopefully get to feel like they have got to know the subject better.  Sometimes a sentence or two will jump out at me during the interview and other times I will find it once I get home and listen to the tape, but I always keep it in the back of my mind.
Be polite
This is an obvious point really, but it is important to keep in mind that whoever you are interviewing has invited you into their home or onto their property and you are taking up precious moments of their time (in my case it always takes about two hours all up to conduct the interview and do the photos).  So...manners go a long way, remember to thank them afterwards and if they gift you with some of their produce/products or even just serve you tea and scones (trust me it happens!), make sure you thank them for these too!
Have you ever been interviewed or had to conduct an interview?



  1. Great post! I recently did training with a journalist about what to say and what not to say in a press interview.. I didn't realise how careful you need to be.. Basically everything you say can be misconstrude..

    What magazine do you work for?

    Fleur x

    1. Hi Fleur, thank you. Training with a journalist would be awesome! What great experience!! I work for a magazine called 'Gippsland The Lifestyle'.

  2. what a fantastic tutorial post :) It's going to be super duper helpful for me in the future since I do enjoy the media field. Love all the little tips and it was a lot of fun to read so surely this knowledge will stick in my head <3

    Hope you follow my blog ‘Heylinni’ at:
    Let me know if you do and want me to follow back!
    Us bloggers should support each other ^_^

    1. Thanks Rachel! I'm glad you found it helpful. Popping over to check out your blog now!

  3. great post, very thorough, and informative! would love to read more on your photography too!

    1. Thank you! I will work on some photography posts!

  4. Replies
    1. Hi! I write for a magazine called 'Gippsland The Lifestyle' magazine.

  5. Sorry to be filling your comments section with messages from me, but I was wondering whether it would be possible for you to to share a photography tutorial with us at some point? I've got a new camera and have no idea how to use it, hehe! x

    1. Hi again! Of course you can pop messages in here! Some others have asked for some photography tips which I'm more than happy to do...although I'm not expert! I will do several posts I think because it is such a large topic. x

  6. Súper tu blog. Hay muchos elementos que usamos que tienen historia :), maravilloso! Un abrazo.

  7. This is a great blog with loads of good advice! I'd love a photography advice sometime?

    1. Thanks Hannah, that means a lot to me. I will to a few posts on photography tips..although I'm no expert but any means!

  8. Great tips!

  9. great tips doll!
    kisses from Miami,

    1. Thank you Borka! Heading over to check out your blog!

  10. I get so nervous interviewing people sometimes! The hardest thing I find, for me personally, is thinking of questions that expand a previous answer. I have a really bad tendency to write a list and stick to it and it's such an unnatural way to interview someone. Practice makes perfect as they say! :)

    1. Hi Megan, thanks for reading. Yes I find that the more interviews I do the easier it gets. I just turn my Dictaphone on and chat really. I tend to be really informal and relaxed so it's never stressful. And the people are always really nice too and are always excited about having an article done about them for the magazine so they are always willing to talk. Makes my job easier!