The Most Effective Way to Interview People for Articles

I had an article to write and needed quotes from a number of different people. The way I looked at it, there were many ways to interview people or get opinions on something.

But which is the most effective way to gather opinions?

Allow me to share what I learnt…

I thought that since everyone is online most of the time nowadays, it would be easier to just send them my interview questions via e-mail or via Google survey. I thought that I was saving time for myself, while doing them a favour of not requesting a meet up or interrupting their busy schedule.

How wrong I was!

I didn’t realise that what’s important to me, is not necessarily important to the people I am interviewing, unless they are benefitting from it.

I learnt it the hard way when I had to wait 4 days – in vain – for the people I contacted to fill up my questionnaire and send it back to me.

I even kept reminding each and every one to do the survey throughout the 4 days.

The result after 4 days?

One person replied with really good points that I could actually use and quote in my article.

And another person replied with just ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘no comments’ and one word replies.

So in essence, I had just created double work for me, ’cause now I had to call up everyone else for a phone interview or to request a meet up to conduct face-to-face interviews.

I was really mad for a while because I thought I had given them such a simple work. But then as I was ranting, my husband shed light on the fact that everyone has their priorities and what’s top priority to me may not necessarily get the same priority with others, especially when they have nothing to gain from it.

It was I who needed their help, and they were the ones doing me a favour; not the other way round.

It was such a simple fact that I had overlooked simply because I thought everyone preferred technology over human interaction these days.

And as I started interviewing people through the phone and in person, I started noticing that it was easier to collate the information I needed.

This is because, when something is in written format (especially online), if you feel confused about the question asked you have no option but to leave it like that or just give a simple, harmless, short reply.

It creates a gap between the interviewer and the interviewee, and this gap affects the flow of information.

In this gap, the interviewer may lose precious information that he/she was looking for.

But when you are talking to a person, and you are confused about a question he/she asks, you can just clarify the doubt on the spot.

This makes interviewing a breeze, and it is for this very reason that writers, especially reporters, prefer to conduct face-to-face interviews, no matter how tedious it may be.

This also explains why many news corporations send journalists to other countries to cover news – because nothing beats being physically present at a venue to witness an incident or interview a person.

It also gives us, the interviewer, an opportunity to ask more relevant questions, branching out depending on the interviewee’s answers.

And so my friends, the most effective way to interview people – as I learnt the hard way – is to just request for a meet up and get it over and done with.

Sometimes the oldest methods are the best methods, and people still do certain things the old way for a reason.


2 thoughts on “The Most Effective Way to Interview People for Articles

  1. Interviews are always best if done face to face. Unfortunately, many newspapers can’t afford to send reporters out on lots of jobs like they used to, relying more and more on press releases, and the drop in quality shows. Technology is useful, but human beings are better!

  2. I couldn’t agree more. This is a very valuable lesson that I learned. I managed to submit the article on time though, and my editor was happy with it. In fact, the article is set to be published tomorrow 🙂

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