Before the Interviews

  1. Make a list of at least 10 questions you want to answer in this story. Some of the questions should be general, some of them should be specific.
  2. Make a list of prospective sources, at least five (people, web resources, written bios, etc.)
  3. Do advance research before interviews — read bios, background materials, book jackets, summaries, web resources, online articles, so that you don’t waste a source’s time asking them to explain what is already in written material you could have read. You should know enough about the topic to ask informed questions. Try to develop a unique angle before your interviews.
  4. Allot at least 15 minutes for each interview. It’s difficult to fully understand someone’s perspective in less than 15 minutes.
  5. If you are doing a personality profile, allot at least 45 minutes but no more than an hour for the major interview. It’s difficult to fully understand or appreciate a person’s background and personality in less than 45 minutes.
  6. Always get an email address or phone number so you can ask follow-up questions.
  7. For longer or focused interviews, try to arrive early so you have time to collect your thoughts and look over or closely observe the environment in which the interview will take place.
  8. If doing a personality profile, try to meet the person you are interviewing in their environment, where they feel most comfortable — their office, for example.
  9. Be sure you have a notebook to write in and pens to write with. In some cases, you might want to record the interview, but be advised that transcribing an interview is time-consuming. EVEN IF YOU ARE RECORDING AN INTERVIEW, TAKE SOME NOTES to remind yourself of the most important points or to note the counter number on the recorder for the best “sound bites.”
  10. As you walk into the area where the interview is to take place, look for unusual details — a photo on a wall, a book on display, an insignia on a shirt or tie, that might be an ice-breaker that starts a conversation and tells a story about the person you are interviewing.

Next: After the Interviews.

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