The Interview: Do’s and Don’ts

Interviewing goes hand in hand with journalism. If you want to write good, engaging content you need to include quotes and the best way to do that is to talk to people.

Whether for a feature or a short news piece, interview techniques are a vital skill for journalists. Fellowship of the Rich ©


While not every interview has to be a formal exchange for a feature, there are still a few things to remember:


  • Bring something to record on. No matter how good you are at short hand it will always pay to have a recording so you can go back and check over your transcript.
  • Meet somewhere quiet. It’s no good bringing your phone or dictaphone to record on if you can’t hear the interviewees voice over the background noise. Meet in a quiet cafe or somewhere similar and if it gets too noisy – move. Your interviewee is likely to be happy to oblige if it means you get the details of what they have to say right.
  • Come prepared. Have a note book and pens and several questions you want to ask already prepared. You might not get through all of them but you’ll be glad you brought them.
Always bring something to record on. Jarret Callahan ©
  • Relax. If you’re relaxed your interviewee will relax too.
  • Take the time to reassure them. If you’ve ever sat a job interview you know how scary it can be. Chat to your interviewee before you turn on the recorder and make sure they are comfortable. This is not a test, you just want them to tell you their story.
  • Listen actively. Even with your notes and audio there are so many things you will miss if you aren’t paying complete attention. What is their body language like? What is the atmosphere like? What gets them talking? If you are interviewing for a feature then the tone of the interview, location and relationship you build with this person will all add colour to your peice. If you are looking for quotes for a news story, look for cues that tell you they are interested and then follow up with new questions.


  • Turn up late. Be punctual! If you turn up late what kind of message are you sending your interviewee? Too late and they might even leave and don’t bank on a second chance.
  • Rush them. Give them a chance to talk but take control. If you need to bring things back to a particular point do so gently and by asking questions. They might have a lot to say and you might not have much time but remember what it’s like on the other side of the table. Rushing them will only fluster them.
checking the time
Don’t be late. Give yourself time to set up and send the right message. Tayloright ©
  • Leave things to chance. Check your equipment before you start. You don’t want to be wasting their time if you suddenly realise your dictaphone is out of battery. If filming, make sure you have a memory card. And then make sure again.
  • Confuse or overwhelm them. Make sure your questions are clear and concise. If they undertsand what you want, you will get what you want but make your questions too convoluted and their answer will reflect that (if they can give you an answer at all!)

Interviews are difficult and often uncomfortable for both parties. As a journalist it is your job to take control of the situation and keep your interviewee as relaxed as possible to get the best possible content.

Remember these do’s and don’ts, relax and have fun!

Published by OwenL

Natural sciences communicator.

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