How to Conduct an Interview

Interview Basics: Good Form

Interviews appear in many different formats. Some forms may be more familiar to you than others. For example, you may have seen someone interviewed on the daily news, but have you seen a celebrity interviewed on a talk show? How about interviews on sports shows? Have you read a printed interview in a magazine?

Learn about interviews by reading, watching, or listening to exemplars. Ask yourself: Where might those interviews appear? What types of questions do the interviewers ask?

Before you go very far with your interview preparation, take a few minutes to do a vocabulary review. Make sure you are familiar with the vocabulary words interviewer, interviewee, and response and phrases like grant an interview and conduct an interview and the difference between them. It is also beneficial to spend a few minutes clarifying the difference between an interview and a conversation. In a conversation, two or more individuals participate and share equally in the process. For an interview, two or more individuals participate but one person is primarily seeking to get information from the other(s).

When a person grants an interview, the interviewer must show his appreciation through his conduct and manners throughout the interview. What might constitute good interview manners?  Not taking too much of the interviewee’s time, being organized, shaking hands at the beginning and saying thank you at the end, listening carefully and taking notes when appropriate, and sending a thank-you note are some examples. If an interviewee has a good experience with someone, they are more likely to agree to another one later down the line.

Get Ready!

Before you conduct an interview, you will need to prepare so that the interview is successful. Think about what type of information you want to get from the interviews. You will be using this information later, but upfront you should consider your purpose in gathering the information. Knowing the purpose of an interview will help you select the best questions to ask and help direct the conversation once you get started. Good resources for interviews might be parents, students in another grade, teachers, or school employees. As you prepare your interview questions, write at the top of your paper the reason for the interview so it is always at the forefront of your mind.

Write It Out

Start formal interview preparation by brainstorming some questions. The first step in the brainstorming process is to write the purpose of the interview at the top of the paper. Again, you should always keep the purpose in mind when writing your questions. You don’t want to get too far off topic and waste time. Start listing questions. Don't worry about which questions are good and which aren’t good or the order in which you list the questions. Once you have a list of about twice as many questions as you think you'll need, go back through and eliminate the ones that are not as good as others. Work with a partner or parent on Now it is the time to organize the questions.

Start with informational questions which will be easiest to answer. These types of questions help get background information and break the ice.

Then move on to understanding questions, that is, questions that help you understand what the person does and why. The answers to these type of questions will be more personal than answers to the information questions but not as personal as answers to the last type of question, opinion questions.

The most personal questions are the opinion questions, the ones where you ask how a person feels about a particular thing. The interviewee will be more comfortable answering these types of questions after you have established a good rapport.

The Time Has Come...

Now the time has finally come to conduct the interview. Remember, you should take notes throughout the interview and always keep your final purpose in mind. After you have completed your interview, think about the experience. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What was easy? What was difficult? What kinds of answers did you get? This information will come in handy the next time you have to conduct an interview.