Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Interviews Part Four: How Will You Conduct Your Interview?

I prefer face-to-face interviews.
Photo by Ambro

Are you  planning to interview face-to-face, via telephone or by email?  Each one has definite advantages and disadvantages.  Keep in mind that sometimes what is a clear advantage to you will create a hassle for your interview subjects.  You want to make this process easy for them as well, as you may wish to interview them again in the future.

Email Interviews

As a writer, these are likely the easiest type of interviews to conduct.  You craft your questions, send them out and poof!  like magic, you have a handy set of information to read through, in a format that allows you to copy and paste quotes, if you so desire.  Sounds great, right?  Here's the dark side:

  • If your interview subject isn't a very proficient writer, you may get a lot of garble that you need to "translate."
  • If your interview subject doesn't like to write, they may resent the extra work.
  • You don't have the opportunity to ask other questions based on the answers your interview subject gives you.  This is actually the email interview's crucial flaw.  Often interview subjects will bring up some piece of information about the topic you might not have even considered.  But to follow up, you'll need to send another email, and then you risk annoying your interview subject.
Phone Interviews

I really don't like phone interviews, and I avoid them if at all possible.  Part of the problem is just that I flat out don't like the phone and I have a hard time hearing people on the other line.  That's kind of my own personal problem, but if you are anything like me, you probably won't like a phone interview either.  I also like to record interviews (always ask your interview subjects for permission to record an interview!), and that's difficult to do on a phone without special equipment.  

I also don't like that I can't read someone's expression when they are answering the question.  That can tell you a lot about what they think of the question, which, if you are observant, may allow you to change your line of questioning a bit or interpret the answer differently.  

So what are the positives about phone interviews?  They're convenient.  You can easily fit one in without having to leave the house, dressed in your jammies even, if you so desire.  They're convenient for the interview subject as well.  They can just write you in on their schedule, not have to go anywhere, and go right back to what they're doing when the interview is complete.  

Face-to-Face Interviews

Far and away, my favorite interview.  While it means you have to make yourself presentable and leave the confines of your comfy office (maybe not altogether a bad thing), it's really the best way to have full communication with your interview subject.  If you are meeting them at their place of business, it's also respectful to them and convenient for them.  You can take advantage of any openings they give you and go down extra paths that the interview opens up (time permitting, of course).  Even better, they may be able to bring someone else helpful to the interview, who can shed additional light on the subject.  To me, a face-to-face interview always feels like a friendly conversation between two people who are both interested in the same subject.  


  1. I haven't conducted an interview myself (or been interviewed!), but I imagine that communicating via Skype would have the advantages of phone and face-to-face combined -- except for being able to wear your pyjamas!

    1. That's a great suggestion and one that I've never tried. It would probably be a challenge for me to use, since I work from home and my interview subject might be a bit put off by the Diego video playing in the background ;-)