June 7, 2010

Interviews

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The last time I was here, I encouraged you to go out there and start interviewing people. However, I know what some of you are thinking. Some of you are thinking, "Okay, genius. How exactly do we go about getting these interviews? We can't just go up to people and say 'Hey, want to be interviewed' right?"

Actually, yes you can. You heard me, sometimes you can actually go up to people and say, "I write for_________ and I was wondering if I could interview you for an article/post/etc."

I discovered this fact when I first became a staff writer for my college newspaper. They were paying me $3.25 an hour and I was excited about having my own personal column called "Lead on Labor". My job was to write a weekly/bi-weekly column about different jobs available to students. At first, I started interviewing my friends, but I noticed quickly that I needed to broaden my reach.

What happened? I saw a cute guy when I was eating at a local cafe. I needed an excuse to talk to him, and that's when a little light bulb appeared. I walked up to him and asked him if I could interview him for an upcoming article. Not only did he say yes, but I learned he worked alongside his girlfriend as well. Okay, besides the disappointment of the girlfriend, I learned that some people actually enjoy being interviewed. While I am still nervous about phone interviews, I am completely okay with sending e-mails to people and asking them if they are interested in an interview.

So, here are some steps for doing the interview:

1. Decide who you want to interview and why: You need to know why you want to interview the person because you don't want to waste the person's time. Also, make sure to pick someone who will be helpful for the interview. You can start with friends and family members to build up your confidence.

2. Work on your interview questions: Conduct research and write down your interview questions. That way, you have a good idea of what you want to write about. You can always add more questions later on through follow-up emails if necessary. However, you should at least have a few questions ready in case the person you want to interview wants to review the questions first. Also, keep your questions limited to 10 at most. Personally, I like to keep my Examiner interview questions within the 5-7 questions range because Internet readers have a shorter attention span.

3. Ask them in a professional manner: Unless stated otherwise, address them in the same manner you would address a client, an employer, etc. I prefer to use a title (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.) and the last name of the individual. If they address me by my first name then I know it's okay to use their first name as well. The letter doesn't have to be long. Here's a sample you can use:

Dear _____________

I am a/the (writer title) for (website/blog). I am working on an (article/post) about (topic) and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions for an interview. If you would like to review the questions ahead of time let me know and I will gladly email them to you. Thank you for taking the time to read this message and I hope you have a wonderful day

Best regards,

(name)

4. The waiting game: This is often the hardest part, but patience will often pay off. Sometimes, you may get the interview and other times you may never receive a reply. If you want, you can send a second e-mail a few days later, but I usually send only one e-mail and let it go. Give them enough time to respond and work on contacting other people for interviews.

5. Send the interview questions: Once you score the interview, send the person you are interviewing the questions A.S.A.P. You are building a potential relationship with interviews, and you don't want to keep them waiting for a week. I like to let the person I interview know that he/she can skip any question he/she does not want to answer. I also tell him/her to let me know if there's something that should be kept off-the-record.

6. Write the interview and send them a copy: If the interviewees prefers to review the post/article first, then send them an advance copy and ask for their input. Remember, you ask them for the interview and they are probably concerned about how they are representing themselves and their companies. It's best to write the article in a document and attach it to an email.

7. Keep in contact: One positive about interviewing people you didn't know originally is the fact that you can now build a strong business relationship. You may be able to ask them more interview questions in the future or use them as a resource for more information. They may be able to give you more ideas for articles/posts as well.

There you go! Those are my tips for successfully interviewing people for your blogs or articles. Now, if you'll excuse me, I sort of left Alrady in an undisclosed location for the past few days while I borrowed her blog. Yeah...I think I better go fetch her.

A.M. Trent is the National Youth Travel Examiner for Examiner.com and the blogger for Survive Being Single.

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