1. Take notes/record the call
It is important to take notes of what the interviewee says during an interview in 2023. You can also consider recording the entire conversation with a recorder. This is for two reasons: you make it easier for yourself to transcribe the interview, and it ensures an accurate elaboration of the interview. This way you avoid misquoting the interviewee, a common complaint that journalists receive. Always let the interviewee know that you are recording the conversation.
2. Put the interviewee at ease
People feel more comfortable when they talk about themselves. Therefore always ask some general, personal questions about the interviewee at the beginning of the interview to get rid of any nerves. This way you bring the interviewee into an open attitude so that you can get more information.
Another method is to tell something about yourself. If the interviewee can relate to what you say, he will feel more at ease. Humor also works well, although you have to sense whether the person in front of you is sensitive to it.
3. Listen intensively
This sounds obvious, but most interviewers only half listen to what the person is saying to them. The other half of their mind is on asking the next question. Avoid this. Listen carefully to what the interviewee has to say and ask questions where necessary. If you can demonstrate that you understand what he/she is saying and want to know more about it, the interviewee will be more inclined to say more.
4. Give the interviewee time to think
As an interviewer you tend to ask further questions to avoid silences. However, such silences can work to your advantage. Try to wait a few seconds every now and then before asking another question. There is a good chance that the interviewee wanted to say more or changed his mind. With a short moment of silence you give him/her the chance to do that.
5. Be clear in your question
A handy rule for interviews is: do a lot of preliminary research, but don’t be stupid during the interview. In this way you give the interviewee time to elaborate on a topic and you can ask the right questions because of your prior knowledge. This way the interviewee knows where he/she stands.
6. Stay objective, be sympathetic
It will often happen that you personally disagree with what the interviewee says (say during a political interview). Don’t let this show. Stay neutral and keep asking. After all, during an interview it is about how the interviewee feels about it, not about how you think about it.
However, this depends on the type of interview you are conducting. Many new news organizations add an extra touch of entertainment to the news by being less objective and allowing their own opinion to shine through in the reporting. If this is the case, the interview will also go differently.
With more serious subjects, such as a traumatic experience, it is also important that you adopt a sympathetic attitude to put the interviewee at ease. Reassure the person or tell them about a similar situation you’ve been in. Please note: your sympathy must not be played, people quickly see through that.