Best skills for a successful interview

A good journalist must be a good writer and full of imagination person.  Furthermore, it is very important if he has great interviewing skills.  A theme is becoming alive when a journalist takes an interview for it.  The interviewee will make the article more direct with his quotes and explain paths that will colour the article.

The interviewee will not start talking and provide you all the information by himself.  The journalist must work on his interviewing skills and be prepared to get the best information and create the best story he can, through his interviewee.

Journalist Simon Hattenstone says, “the best way of finding out what people want to know? Ask them.”  You must be honest and have the courage to ask difficult questions.  Of course, you must NOT become rude.  Remember that you have to respect the person opposite you, like you want him to respect you.  Some themes are sensitive for several important figures, and a journalist has to respect the possibility that the interviewee might not want to answer a deep personal question.

Being polite and having a good attitude towards your interviewee will gain you the trust of the person you are talking too.  Keep in mind that you are trying to write a story and the person you are interviewing is the source of the information you need;  so you better not behave rudely towards them.

Also, a journalist must be confident and relaxed on his interview.  He must be able to gain the attention of his interviewee and attract him to open himself and talk.  It is like you are having a conversation at a cafe with a friend.

Likewise, the interview must be done at the perfect time.  If you are obligated, choose an hour early in the morning or during the weekend;  during these times, your interviewee will be more relaxed and happy to answer your questions.


An interview must be also well prepared.  For example, the interviewer has to prepare his questions before the interview;  read about his interviewee, learn things about him, read some of his previous interviews and write down the best questions that can derive information from that person.

Mirta Ojito, from the New York Times, believes that, “you have to try to know almost as much as they do about their subject, so it seems we are ‘chatting.”

The best questions for  journalist to use are the open-ended ones.  Those beginning with “How?” “What?” “Where?”.

According to reporter and feature writer, Chip Scanlan,

these words are conversations starters and encourage expansive answers that produce an abundance of information needed to produce a complete and accurate story.

Closed-ended questions are also very helpful since they put people on the record.  For sure, you must never use double- barreled questions because they give the interviewee the opportunity to avoid the difficult question and chose the easy one.

According to journalist Sarah Stuteville ,  flow of your questions is the most important skill an interviewer can develop.  She urges that a journalist must achieve a balance in the conversation and always think what he will ask next and why.  This flow of questions must seem natural and conversational.

Stuteville believes that,

you must not spin your subject off on a completely different topic just because that’s the next question on your list.  Think about segues and transitions. This way your subject doesn’t feel forced to give you soundbites and may open up a little.

Decca Aitkenhead‘s interview of  chancellor Alistair Darling, is a good example for a very good interview.  Above the fact that it is very lengthy, you can figure out in it how the journalist managed to have a ‘discussion’ with her interviewee and help him to open himself out through her questions.  The interview is well flowing and it is like you are reading an action story and wait what you will read on the next page.  She also took the interview while the chancellor was on vacations at his home. The timing is very important because she talked to him, when he was not under the stress of work and stuck under long working hours.  Additionally, Aitkenhead interviewed Darling at a time that he seemed willing to talk.

There are hundred of skills that can make someone a good interviewer.  Each one has his own tactics and methods that help him to have the best possible interview.  Just remember that an interview is good only when the interviewer is interested and curious on the subject.  With this way he will manage to have a nice discussion with the interviewee, manage to get the information he needs and provide to the readers an interesting reading peace.


Posted on October 28, 2013, in Journalism. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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