The Art of Interviewing
Asking questions is part of our job — that’s why we’re journalists. We get paid to ask questions. We get to find answers to what people at home are wondering. We get to hold the powerful accountable. We get to hear from witnesses. We get to see history as and when it happens. We get to hear personal stories to inspire change. Interviews have to be strong, succinct and emotional. To get a great story, you have to ask the right questions.
No matter the interview (live on air, news packages, email, podcast, social media lives), there are ways to get a “great story” from what could be a regular, mundane interview. So whether it’s a city council meeting, a victim’s personal angle or a celebrity’s inside story, here are a few useful interview tips for you:
– do your homework
– talk to your guest(s) before you are live to put them at ease
– ask tough and fair questions but don’t start with that
– get reaction on key topics and not just the facts
– evoke emotion and how they feel about certain things
– pique your own curiosity
– have an honest conversation with them
– rephrase and repeat a question if needed especially if they avoid it
– use humor to lower the temperature
– always cover the basics first: who, what, where,when, why and how
– find out what’s next, what else, how they feel, what solutions, who benefits, a personal story, how it works?
– keep your audience in mind and ask questions from social media (Facebook, Twitter)
– keep your questions short, sweet and simple
– ask only one question at a time
– get clarity and keep the language simple (what do you mean by that, why do you think that’s the case)
– listen to your interview and bounce questions off what he/she says
– wrap up the interview on a strong note
– don’t send your questions in advance
– never ask yes or no based questions (avoid do you believe or do you think)
– don’t assume the viewer knows it all
– don’t pretend to know or be an expert
– don’t make the interview drag on
– don’t lose track of time
– read their body language and ask appropriate questions (are they smiling, worried, nervous, losing eye contact)
– don’t just shoot off several questions at once
– don’t stress out if your interview doesn’t give you much but find a way to rephrase
– don’t worry if you asked or stumbled when asking a question but just re-ask the question
– don’t just read one question after another but LISTEN to what they say and naturally transition
20 SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
- What did you learn from this?
- What inspires and motivates you?
- Who wins from this?
- What was your first thoughts when you heard about this?
- How do you feel about this situation?
- If you could go back, what would you change?
- Who are your heroes?
- What is your favorite quote and why?
- What things frustrate you?
- What would you say to this person? (boss, politician, criminal)
- Why did you decide to speak up now?
- How would your friends or coworkers describe you?
- What do you love about your job?
- How do you leave an impression?
- What makes you proud?
- What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
- How does what you do make a difference to others?
- What are causes you are passionate about?
- What is your purpose in life?
- What qualities do you admire in someone?