How to conduct an interview 101

Earlier this week, I visited with a local class of Grade 9 students at who will be working on short documentary projects this term profiling senior community members. I was asked to give a workshop on the basics of conducting interviews, asking questions, and pulling stories from subjects in a meaningful way.

As someone who, in an alternate life, had considered going into youth and social work full-time, I jumped at the chance. (Sidenote: I was about 14 when the idea of seriously pursuing journalism as a career took root in my head so who knows?)

For any of the students who heard me speak on Tuesday and might be interested in journalism, I encourage you to read as much as you can about the world and to get to know your community. Thanks for allowing me to come visit and share a little bit about my job and I hope it was helpful and interesting.

Here’s a few of my notes from Tuesday to keep in mind as you tackle your project.

  • Start with the basics (ie. who, what, when, where, why, how) and go from there.
  • Pay attention and listen to the responses. Engage with their responses.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to veer off from your list of questions.
  • Always get their name right! Ask them to spell out both their first and last names.
  • The interview should feel like you are talking to an old friend.
  • “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”
  • The key is that your subject feels comfortable and trusts you enough to share their story, and trusts that you’ll get it right.

Good luck!