Women Through Time

Interview Tips

(Interviewing taken from Interest Projects for Cadette and Senior Girl Scouts.  Elisabeth K. Boas, editor.  Girl Scouts of the United States of America, 1997.)

Set up the interview in advance: Establish a convenient time and place for the interview.  People may choose to talk at home, on the job, or at places like the library or a coffee shop.  Keep in mind that their schedules come first.  Exchange phone numbers in case you have to reschedule the interview.  Always ask about the best times to call.

Be prepared: Prepare a list of questions ahead of time or at least have an idea of the kinds of things you want to know.  Have a notebook and at least two pens or pencils handy.  You may want to bring a tape recorder (ask first if it's okay to tape the interview).

Take accurate notes: Take good notes.  If a person talks too fast for you, ask her to repeat the information.  She won't mind and will be impressed with your desire for accuracy.  If you plan to quote someone, it's especially important that you write down verbatim (word for word) what that person says.  Even omitting one little word by mistake can change the entire meaning of a sentence. 

Display good manners: Be on time, dress well, and be enthusiastic.  Not everyone you interview may reveal astonishing facts, but the person has gone through the trouble of giving you her time, so be patient and appreciative.

Relax and have fun: If you are shy about calling a "stranger," relax!  Most people feel this way.  You can practice with a friend, or pretend you are your favorite TV personality conducting the interview.  What would she say?

Most interviews are fun.  People generally appreciate your interest and are willing to give you the information you request.  If someone declines to answer a question, don't take it personally.  Just ask another one.  Sometimes it is best just to let the person talk.  In telling a story she may reveal an interesting bit of information or give you insight you never expected into a topic.  Before you leave, be sure to ask the person if you may contact her again in case you think of something else to ask.



And Beyond

Women Through Time