How to Conduct a Successful Interview

When you Google “how to conduct an interview”, a thousand lists of Dos and Don’ts shows up and it can seem overwhelming. How am I supposed to keep track of a camera, a microphone, asking the right questions, making sure my interviewee isn’t fatigued, pointing out contradictions, and eighty other things? It’s impossible to do all of that juggling, so for this blog post I simplified the compiled list of notes I took into two main ideas. As an interviewer, you have two jobs: first, be interested in the person you are interviewing; second, remember you have an audience. If you manage to do those two things, almost every thing that could go wrong will take care of itself.

If you are interested in the person you are interviewing, you will be courteous to your interviewee. This means you will ask deeper questions, maintain eye contact, and notice when your interviewee is fatigued. It’s important to review these kinds of tips before interviewing someone so they are in the back of your mind but it is not necessary to think about every one of these bullet points while interviewing someone. If you do, you won’t be able to concentrate on the interviewee’s story anyway. Even if everything in an interviewer goes wrong, as long as you are polite, professional, and interested, you can always ask follow up questions later.

Second, remember the interview is being conducted so that other people can view it later. Other people are not interested in the interviewer’s story, that’s why they decided to watch an interview about the interviewee. So as an interviewer, remember that it isn’t about you. The audience does not care about your value judgments or commentary. Your job as an interviewer is to put the interviewer in the spotlight. Furthermore, if you remember you have an audience, you will remember to clarify details that may not be clear to people who have not attended Denison or are not English majors and you will remember to check the video equipment as that is obviously necessary for an audience to watch the interview later. Basically, try to conduct an interview that you would like to watch.

Finally, never underestimate the usefulness of practice and preparation. The two ideas I listed above are helpful but nothing beats practice. I know that as a group we will come up with interview questions and will do practice interviews with others, so by the time the Alumni weekend comes we will be ready to conduct professional interviews. In the notes I have included a long list of Dos and Don’ts organized chronologically from the before an interview to after it is completed.