How do I prepare for interviews

The interview
How to Write an Interview!

An interview is a survey with the aim of finding out interesting, new and exciting things about and from the interviewee. In addition to the form of presentation, the interview is also a research method.

Table of Contents

There are three types of interviews:

  • The Factual interview explores a person's attitude to certain factual issues and adds to the message.
  • The personal interview brings a personality or its character into focus.
  • The survey summarizes several opinions or short statements from people on a specific topic.

If you want to replay interviews, this is your choice two forms at: the report and the wording interview. While speech and counter-speech alternate in the form of question and answer in the verbal interview, the author interweaves quotes from the interview with further information and / or a story in the report. A report is also called a built interview. The author inserts the quotations in the form of direct and / or indirect speech.

Both forms of representation have their strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths of the report is the ability to include additional researched information within the text. Furthermore, the form of the report enables a story to be told. A report turns out to be boring if its content is dry and has little substance.

A verbatim interview, on the other hand, can convey the language of the interviewee in an exciting and informative manner. It's great for introducing people and your intentions. The verbal interview can make thinking transparent.

Verbatim interviews can be further divided into short interviews and magazine interviews. The short interview is concise and precise and is limited to 4-5 questions with the corresponding answers. Often it is supplemented by a small photo and visually enhanced.

In contrast to this, the magazine interview is the longer variant, which ideally reflects the atmosphere of the conversation. The magazine interview is more structured and follows a deliberately designed dramaturgy. Although the course of the conversation may be changed in the magazine interview, the content of the statement cannot be changed.

The processCompleting an interview for publication is divided into four phases:

  • Prepare
  • To lead
  • Writing / dubbing
  • Authorize

A careful way of working during each phase guarantees that the interview will be exciting and that the reader will see interesting facts.

Prepare for the interview

In order for interviews to be successful, preliminary research is mandatory. This includes online and offline research. The better you are prepared for an interview, the more flexible you can deal with the respondents and the more careful you can control the conversation. If you are well prepared, the person you are talking to will notice and thank you with respect and an interesting dialogue.

When researching, it is important to find out which topics your interviewee has already spoken about. You surely know from your own experience how boring it can be to report your own holiday experiences to your parents, friends and acquaintances over and over again. It usually becomes attentive and exciting when someone asks a different question and doesn't ask again: "How was Barcelona?" A question with a previous assertion that directs the focus on a topic, for example: "The Buildings by Gaudí are far too colorful for me personally. I prefer it plain and simple. How did they affect you? "

So spare your interlocutor with banal questions, which you can find in his biography as well as numerous other interviews and portraits. It is better to concentrate on partial aspects and illuminate and question them.

Entertaining and interesting for your listeners and readers as well as for the interviewee are new ideas, claims and facts. Take the time to do a thorough research. As a rule, this results in a good interview if you do not come across one of the problem cases already mentioned.

Even if you have created a schedule for the interview, do not stick to it rigidly! This means that under certain circumstances interesting statements can slip through your fingers, because you are too fixated on your own prefabricated procedure. Had you been attentive and had asked at the crucial moment, you would have learned one more important fact.

Conducting the interview

Conducting interviews is an art in itself. The more sensitive and attentive you are to your interlocutor, the more pleasant he will find the conversation with you and the more detailed he will answer you. Nevertheless, you will often reach your limits in interviews.

In many cases, no matter how well prepared you are, interviews can be tough when you are faced with a taciturn, grumpy, disinterested, or simply tired person. In the worst case, there is nothing that can be used. It is different with shy people who have to be gently lured out of their snail shell and do not want to be dragged out.

In general, you therefore look for a gentle introduction to the conversation at the beginning. Before the interview, plan a warm-up phase in which you can tell your interview partner a few things about yourself. Do not fall into the house with the door straight away during the dialogue, unless time is of the essence. Cautiously approach the topics that are of particular interest to you. This also means that you start the conversation with questions that are relatively easy for your interlocutor to answer. Only later should you turn to more difficult or critical questions.

At the end of the interview, on the other hand, a final punch line or an outlook that focuses on new developments, tendencies or the like is suitable. Such an ending gives the interview a final momentum. If possible, the punchline should come from the interviewee himself. In an interview, it is good form that the interviewee ends the dialogue himself. Finally, thank your interview partner for the interview so that you will be fondly remembered.

During the interview

During the interview it is important to listen carefully to the interviewee and to take back yourself. This can be difficult, for example, if you adore the interviewee as a fan or admire him for what he does. Make absolutely sure that you maintain a certain distance from your interview partner in terms of content and that you do not show too much solidarity with him. On the one hand, this could be interpreted as ingratiation, on the other hand you should always keep in mind that an interview is primarily about information, however subjective it may be.

Good listening helps to perceive important nuances in a conversation. If you notice interesting details, you ask in more detail at the appropriate moment. Listening is easy to train. Your own environment is suitable for the first steps. Just sit down with a parent or grandparent and get to the bottom of a new topic. In doing so, focus on learning new things.

If your first few interviews don't go quite according to plan, don't lose your vigor. Be brave and self-critically analyze the course. You can draw helpful conclusions from the reflection on how to make an interview more colorful, sensitive or critical the next time.

In my early years as a music journalist, there were a few interviews that were flawless, but many of them weren't exactly "smooth". In some cases, after just three minutes, I had wasted all of my questions, but not a single usable answer on tape. But there were also conversations that developed so actively that I learned a lot of new things, but none of the questions I had originally planned were answered.

Then there were conversations again in which I could hardly speak and the interviewee unwound his program. Especially during my very first interview, I was just a projection screen. I fell into the fan trap. The interviewee just ignored my questions and answered cleverly to get his message across.

In general, every interview has its own characteristics. With increasing experience, you will be more successful in interviewing and you will learn to lively structure an interview with the right questions.

The right place for an interview

It is worthwhile to look for a quiet place for the interview when doing your research. Even refrigerators or computer fans, which you do not notice directly at first, manifest themselves later as annoying buzzing or hissing on the recording and in the radio, podcast or video. In public spaces such as cafés or behind a stage, on the other hand, it is not always possible to prevent noise during conversations. But even in such places there are sometimes quieter corners where fewer people walk by and chat with each other. Right next to the kitchen door is not necessarily recommended. Of course, you will not always have any influence on the location of the interview, because numerous interviews also take place in offices, hotel rooms or directly on site.

Depending on the person you are talking to, a microphone can be a disruptive factor. Shy interlocutors who are not interviewed often often treat a microphone with great respect. In the worst case, they express themselves taciturn and fearful or speak stilted. To avoid such situations, it is worth purchasing a microphone stand. Small table tripods - e.g. this table tripod from Hama - help and fit in every backpack.

If you position a microphone with such a stand on the table, you keep both hands free. This has three advantages: Firstly, you don't hold the microphone under the interviewee's nose all the time. Second, you keep both hands free to look at the documents and your own gestures. And thirdly, the interviewee usually forgets the microphone that at some point there will only be an object such as a bottle of water or a cappuccino on the table.

Note: Even better - but more expensive - are professional clip-on microphones, e.g. from Sennheiser. These provide a high-quality recording, are inconspicuous and are quickly forgotten.

However, a table tripod does have a not insignificant disadvantage. The greater the distance from the speaker, the quality deteriorates and the device records more quietly. In such a situation, the decisive factor is where you record the conversation and whether you will need it later for a radio broadcast. Prioritize a relaxed and relaxed interview, then use a tripod.

If you don't record interviews for a radio broadcast, the drop in quality isn't that bad. However, if you use the sound material for your contribution, you can edit it later with suitable tools and tune it to a better volume. The most important thing here is to record the other party's voice. Recording with two microphones is ideal, of course, but you usually only have one. You should always direct this towards the person you are speaking to. If it doesn't take your own questions as well, it doesn't matter. You can also speak the questions afterwards during production. With this method you can be sure that you record all statements in an appropriate quality.

Note: Some devices, especially minidisc and MP3 players, allow you to create markers during the interview. Such markers make post-processing easier because they structure the recording during the interview. When you listen to it later, you can use the markers to quickly jump back and forth between the individual sections or topics.

Written down the interview

When writing interviews, it sometimes helps to play the interviews more slowly. To do this, the interview must be on the computer and opened with an audio editor. Such interviews may sound a little weird at first, but the ear quickly gets used to them. The slower playback speed supports you when typing. Another advantage of an interview that is open in the audio editor is the fact that you can also set markers here - as with the recording - and use the waveform to quickly see where the other person answered and at which point you left a question or comment have brought in. Furthermore, fast forward and rewind within a software editor is much faster than with the often small buttons on minidisc and MP3 recorders.

In newspapers and magazines, questions in a verbatim interview are usually set in italics. I advise you not to do this on the Internet, because italics on websites are usually more difficult to read than any other formatting. Instead, it is best to format the questions in bold and use the

tag for the answer, which indents the answers in the normal settings on the left-hand side. The name of the speaking person is placed in front of the questions and answers. For reasons of space, it can be abbreviated in the further course of the verbal interview.

Soundtrack for the interview

When dubbing and cutting an interview, it is worth cutting the questions and answers into individual blocks. On the one hand, this improves the overview, and on the other hand, you can specifically edit and optimize the volume of the respective passage by normalizing it or adjusting it using the envelope curve tool. Working with blocks also allows you to rearrange the interview a little. On top of that, you can place simple sound snippets such as sound signatures or pieces of music between the blocks.

If no questions were recorded because you constantly pointed the microphone at the interview partner, they must be spoken afterwards. If you get tangled up speaking, relax and just repeat the question one more time. Then take your time to cut out the slip of the tongue.

Authorization of the interview

It is good style to have interviews authorized by those you are talking to. After the writing or setting to music, send your production to the interviewee again before publication. This means that he knows the finished article before it is distributed. If he does not or no longer agrees with one or the other statement, give him the opportunity to change it. Strictly speaking, you are not required to do so, but out of respect, you shouldn't be petty on this point.

In order to get the approval for the recording of your interview partner, it is sufficient if you place the microphone clearly visible when recording the conversation. It is even better if you ask your interviewee at the beginning of the interview whether you can record the conversation on tape. The presence of a witness - e.g. a photographer or acquaintance - who heard the clarifying sentences can serve as an assurance that the interviewee has given his consent to the recording.

The need for authorization is related to the right to one's own word. Afterwards, each person can, for example, determine whether their statements on a topic may be published or not. Publication against the will of the person concerned or the twisting of statements from a shortened interview lead to a violation of personality, which can trigger claims for counter-representation and revocation, but also for damages and compensation for pain and suffering.

Successful interviews

Zeit.de: "The fear of the goalkeeper" by Henning Sußebach
»Oliver Kahn lost the fight for his place in the German goal. The story of a personal tragedy - told on the basis of an interview that was never printed «

Book tips on the subject of interviews

»The journalistic interview "
Jürgen Friedrichs and Ulrich Schwingers
VS Verlag, 2005
ISBN-10 9783867640480

Buy from Amazon ›

»Talk to each other"
Schulz von Thun
rororo Verlag, 2011
ISBN-10 3499627175

Buy from Amazon ›

»The interview"
Michael Haller
UVK media, 2001
ISBN-10: 9783896693044

Buy from Amazon ›

Other forms of representation