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How Journalists can Become better Interviewers? Top 24 Tips


The journalism all depends on the cooperation of someone, you are about to talk and get information from. Journalist whosoever he or she is, from which ever beat, he or she is, has to be very interactive and get the truth out. As it is easy to get the answer, but sometimes it is equally difficult to get out the gospel truth. This is because not all sources are alike. Some might reply you easily while some would like to make you sweat for a simple line. So, every journalist must develop some important skills to become a better interviewer:

journalists become better interviewers

24 Interview Tips for Journalists:

1. Do not disclose the questions to the interviewee:

You might have penned down all the questions for yourself, that’s fine, but explaining the questions to the interviewee is like limiting the output of answers from them. This is because when you brief the questions before hand, the interviewee may get prepared with answers which are against the rules. You can brief about the subject, the topic and the context, but do not reveal the verbatim questions.

2. Punctuality is must:

If you are a journalist, you ought to be punctual, or you might lose the chance of covering the event on the spot. So, I guess, the journalists do possess the inherent quality of being punctual as they are supposed to reach the spot immediately. This quality has to be carried forward to another task also. If you are assigned a task of interviewing a personality or even a common man, do not keep them waiting. No one likes it.

3. Be prepared with equipment with no technical fault:

A journalist is supposed to carry recorders, the stationary, the camera, enough of batteries, tapes and so many other things. These things are exactly needed for the interview. Make sure all of your technical tools are sound enough to avoid any sort of technical hindrance during the interview. So, before you leave the office premises, check all the equipments once and then move ahead for the interview.

4. Where will you conduct the interview?

Now this is a big question, where will you conduct the interview? The place where you will take an interview should be less noisy and the ambiance should be away from all sorts of unnecessary distractions. Deciding the place is the most important part because the preparation of questions is quite easy for one time, but place is the most vital decision. So, decide it accordingly.

5. Give and get respect, is the key:

Whether you are going to interview a common man or a public figure, whosoever he or she is, just treat them well. Remember, you are there to know the answers and the interviewee has to answer the questions. All the power lies with the interviewee. So, treat them well and give them respect. Do not be harsh or rude while asking queries.

6. Do your homework well:

Being a journalist and working to become a good interviewer requires a lot of homework to be done. For being a better interviewer, you need to do research work. The research work does not say to cram everything you read. The questions you make should not be cramped. You should have a basic understanding of what you are going to ask the person sitting next to you. If you will cram the questions, you will not be able to carry forward the interview with sub questions and the interview will not go with a flow. So, homework means the basic research and understanding is a must.

7. Do not be in a hurry! Relax and make the guest relax too!

Journalist are usually in a hurry to get the stories first, then gathering the information and then publishing it in a well written manner. This should be avoided during the interview. This is because you have to make the person feel relaxed. If you yourself will be in a hurry, nothing will go smoothly. Also, you know well, haste makes waste. So, it is better to relax yourself, have a deep breath and then start. Don’t be in a hurry of first staring and then ending the interview.

8. Keep questions short and crisp:

Do not make lengthy questions. The more the questions are lengthy, the more complicated answers you will get. So, be short in questioning and also give time to the interviewee to speak. After one question is answered, then ahead to the other question. Keep the process crisp and short in terms of questions. This way the interview will go long and smooth enough.

9. Do not start a debate, it’s an interview:

Look, you are supposed to take an interview. So, it should actually be more like an interview. Do not start giving your own opinion. Also, do not turn your questions into a debate. You are there to ask questions and get relevant answers to those questions. So, focus on getting out the truth than proving the point or debating on any issue. Interviews are conversation so they must be kept healthy.

10. Be confident, active and smart:

Be confident of what you are going to ask next. You need to be smart so that you handle any awkward situation if in any case arises. Being active is also necessary as if you will be dull and lazy, the interviewee will also be less interested in answering the questions. So, you must possess all these qualities.

11. Check your body language:

Your body language should be smart. Your body language includes the moment of your eyes also. So, when you hold a piece of paper in your hands during the interview, do not look into the paper again and again. It reflects that you are not prepared well. It not just creates a bad impression, but also distracts the interviewee. So, make sure you keep the paper in your hand just for the reference purpose only.

12. 5 w’s and 1 h must be there:

5 w’s and 1 h means the questions should have all the elements like why, where, what, when, what and how. If you are able to cover all these six basic elements, you will not face any problem and all the aspects of the interview will be covered. The interview will rather be a success as no element will be left out and all the essentials will be there at the time of output.

13. Maintain an eye to eye contact:

Your eye to eye contact is must. This is because you will be asking questions to the person next to you and if you will be in some other world while interviewing, the person might feel uncomfortable. So, it’s your duty to make the person feel comfortable. Look at the person and nod the head when required. Smile to what he or she says and give an answer to him or her in the form of your positive gestures. Your facial expressions will do a great deal. So, do not sit dull there.

14. Questions can be less, but apt:

There is no hard and fast rule of how many questions need to be asked. If you are satisfied in three or four questions, then you are entitled to end the interview after that only. But in case you are not done within three or four queries, you can even increase the limit of the questions to be asked. Provided the questions are apt enough to be answered by the interviewee.

15. Do not just speak, also listen:

While you and your interviewee are there, you are not only suppose to throw the questions, but also you have to pay attention to what he or she says. The interviewee may say something very important that you would have never expected. So, listen very carefully once the interviewee begins to speak.

16. Verify your facts and figures:

There is nothing worse than being pointed out wrong by the interviewee. So, if you want to avoid such embarrassing situation, just verify all the facts and figures before taking the interview. Not just this, if the interview is going live, you and your channel might have to face a trouble. So, avoiding trouble for yourself and for your channel, better go well prepared and verify all the contacts and figures. If possible, ask and verify from the interviewee itself about the facts, but in brief. This would really help you out.

17. You are not the center of attraction:

The guest you are about to interview is the center of attraction. So, do not be obsessed by your own qualities. You have to rise the guest in the eyes of the audience. So, focus on that instead of yourself. You have to speak about all the achievements of the interviewee and applaud for him or her. Such gestures will help you in making an interview a success and also you will become a better interviewer.

18. Make your subject strong:

You might be interviewing a normal person but that does not mean you do not have something special to tell your audience. It’s with you that how will you make your subject strong and powerful. Your questions should be influential yet interesting enough to be asked and engage the audience.

19. Do not forget to record side by side:

You need to record the whole interview from the very start. This is because, the recording provides you a backup option in case you forget what the interviewee said. Also, you will be able to verify in the future, if any serious thing happens. So, it is better not to forget to record and keep a backup option with you.

20. Do not be shy:

If you will shy and not speak what you wish to ask for, then you might lose the opportunity of hearing the most important thing that otherwise you may not speak. You don’t have to be shy. Just ask what you want to ask. Be sharp and if needed you can also be a little sneaky and annoying. If you will hesitate in speaking, it will be your loss only.

21. Be humble and thankful to the interviewee:

Although the interview will help you, your channel and the interviewee, yet you need to be humble and thankful to your interviewee for showing a presence, taking out time and all. So, your tone should reflect gratefulness and your words should reflect that you, your office was happy to have them here.

22. Be manipulative where needed:

You cannot be plain and direct. At times you have to be very manipulative to get the right and exact answers out. So, there is nothing wrong in being manipulative and little twisting in questioning. Remember that once you are manipulative, you might not get the exact answer, but anyhow, this is a trick in itself. So, such tricks are learnt by experience and time.

23. Do not use technical jargon:

Make the questions in a simple language. Most importantly, speak in the language in which the interviewee is comfortable with. Also, you will have to have a good command over your language and also need to have fluency in it. The simple language is good and understandable to you, your audience and obviously the interviewee.

24. The connection is needed:

The connection should be there in all your questions. Not just the questions, but also there should be connection with the current situation. Do not just make the interview based all on the past, but connect with the present situation too.

So, above are some of the interview tips for journalists which help them become a better interviewer from a journalist. Whatever work you do in life, needs sheer hard work, passion and utter attention. Only then you are able to give your best. Also, a journalist at one or the other point of time is an interviewer only, but for being an interviewer specifically, the above qualities are required. Some might have inbuilt qualities, but to some these qualities have to develop through dedication and commitment.