Best Practices For Conducting Interviews

Best Practices For Conducting Interviews

One of the biggest factors that will influence your response rate will be the way you construct your interview and the questions you pose.

To do this, you need to walk a fine line between getting the meatiest and most fascinating content and at the same time ensuring you don’t offend or put off your interviewee.

You do not want to create a situation where your subject is angered or irritated by your questions and thus refuses to answer.

Best Practices For Conducting Interviews

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5 Tips To Prepare For The Interview

Tip #1 – Do Your Research

Read about the person you’re going to be interviewing, spend some time on their website and look at their social media sites.  

This does not have to be a long process but make sure you have a good feel for what they do and who they are

Make sure that you’re up to date with anything that they have done recently.

For instance, if you ask them something that’s public knowledge or that contradicts reality, then you’ll expose yourself as not really being interested in them.

This can hurt your relationship.

Tip #2 – Be Polite!

Always thank them for answering you in the first line of your message/interview.

Additionally, it is a good idea (and somewhat expected) to start your interview by asking for a basic overview of the person you’re speaking to.

Beginning your interview with a simple: “Can you tell our listeners a bit about who you are?” is a great way to kick things off. 

It will help bring your readers up to speed.

Tip #3 – Always Use Open-Ended Questions

What I mean by this is, you never want to lead a question with a statement like “that’s true, isn’t it?” and you should never use questions that will only require a ‘yes or no’ response.

Asking, “do you like chocolate?” is not good. Asking, “what are your feelings about chocolate?” is much better.

This not only means more content for you, additionally, it lets them show their personality more.

You want to make it interesting, while you stay on topic.

One way to do this is to think a little deeper than the obvious and don’t just ask for information that you could find online – ask for their:

  • Opinions
  • Feelings
  • Predictions, or
  • Insider secrets

For example, if there is a scandal or controversy surrounding an individual and you want to touch upon it – then tread carefully.

You can ask this question in such a way that they will be able to dodge or spin it if they wish.

Tip #4 – Don’t Make Your Interview Too Lengthy

To do this, ask fewer questions and keep them open-ended so the interviewee can choose to elaborate if they want to.

If you have too many questions, you can bet your interviewee isn’t going to want to take the time to answer all of them.

They’re in a hurry and ultimately you’re lucky if you’re getting any responses.

Plus you don’t want to spend hours writing your interviews only for them to be ignored or not used.  

When you ask a lot of questions, it will only end up making things more labor-intensive than writing regular content. 

Doesn’t that somewhat defeat the point.

To save you time and streamline the process then you can even try using some of the same questions from interview to interview.

Even professional interviewers will sometimes do this. 

They will ask a few set questions to get a unique insight into that person.

Here, part of the fun is actually derived from the fact that the questions are consistent – meaning that the answers can be compared.

Remember part of your content strategy is thinking about your goals and the purpose of what your planning to write with these interviews. Click on the image below to grab a FREE Goal Setting Guide to help you!

‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’, for example, is a program where James Lipton interviews a number of actors in order to learn more about their craft.

He asks the same ten questions with all of his interviewees at some point during the long-form process.

These ten questions are:

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What sound or noise do you love?
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  7. What is your favorite curse word?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

You might not have long enough with your interviewee to always ask them these ten questions but you can easily create 3-4 of your own unique question to either start or end each interview.

If your interviewee, for instance, has never given an interview before because they’re a ‘smaller influencer’, then anything you ask them will be fresh material.

Here is a fun eample, if your interview is with Brad Pitt (however you pulled that off!) then you need to ask something new to make your content fresh.

This is because his fan base will read anything with his name attached to it, so you need to try and discover something new, in order to get your content to explode and potentially go viral.

What about doing something completely unique then and asking your interviewee about a topic not usually associated with them?

Tip #5 – Ask If They Have Anything They’d Like To Add

Invite them to speak about an upcoming project or event that they’d like to promote.

Not only is this polite, but it gives them the floor as a thank you for taking the time, and it also makes them much more likely to respond.

If they hadn’t already seen the inherent marketing opportunity available to them, adding this to your questionnaire will make sure that it’s clear!

Creative Alternatives to Regular Interviews

You want to make your interviews more interesting for your readers and for the interviewees alike (free tip: you do), then you can look into using creative alternatives to standard interviews.

Single Question

Instead of a list of questions, try asking just one.

Why not be a little more creative about how you use this opportunity?

One alternative is to get multiple people to answer a single question and then collate these responses to a single result.

This is a very effective strategy that gives your answers more credence and the single question makes it easier for you to get responses.

If you ask someone for the answer to just one question, they can potentially get the same benefits of the exposure for just a couple of minutes of their time.

This means you’re much more likely to get your answer.

Alternatively, it also offers something very unique and interesting to the reader.

Now you have a lot of sound bites on the topic from a wide range of different people, instead of one long interview on a subject.

You can combine these together and paint a picture or overview of the subject that has a lot of inherent value.

The title could be something like ’20 Experts Weigh In On X’.

Survey Your Audience

One way you could take this concept even further and turn it into a kind of survey of your audience or of the general public.

How about getting 100 people to answer one question.

This is an option so you don’t need to reach out to influencers, but you can still offer something exciting with your content.

Think Outside The Box

Interact with your influencer/interviewee in a way that breaks the mold and isn’t just a standard interview question.

It has the opportunity to be more appealing because the interaction promises to be a little more interesting and fun for them. 

This interview will stand out in comparison to the countless others they have been involved in.

Here are a few examples:

  • How about getting one of your contacts to take a personality quiz? or,
  • Ask them ‘Which Game of Thrones Character Are You’.

This is unique and fun content that would share – who wouldn’t want to know what Game of Thrones character a top blogger/CEO is?

Challenge the Interviewee

Alternatively, how about giving your interviewees a challenge?

Sum yourself up in ten words? Or how about asking them to write a short story?

This is fun, different, and unique and it’s the sort of thing that could be turned into a series making it great for getting repeat traffic.

How to Write Up Your Interview

Raw interview footage or answers often are ready for the public right away.

You will probably need to polish and write it up before you share or publish it.

Normally this means writing a brief introduction about who the person is (this can be shorter if they’ve introduced themselves). 

And you want to make sure you hype up the audience for the interview to follow.

Remember to include a conclusion summing everything up.

Upload Your Interview In Question/Answer Format

Make sure you are proofing first to fix typos (this looks better for everyone).

Frame Your Interview More Like a Story

This one will involve a little more work on your part but gives you something more engaging by the end.

Talk about how you met the interviewee, why they caught your attention, and how they conduct themselves.

Write about the environment you interviewed them in and where they are in their career.

Interject their quotes with your own insights and reactions.

Paraphrase What They’ve Said

This step will improve flow but you want to make sure it’s clear!

If you need to edit a quote for clarity (when taken out of context), the standard approach is to put your additions in [square brackets].

This might mean inserting a proper noun in place of an ‘it’ or a ‘he’ – just make sure you’re not changing the content to the point where it changes their meaning.

Get a Unique Photo

This is great for promotion and lends more context and visual interest to your post.


As you can see – interviewing people in your niche is a great way to consistently generate compelling content for your website.

Interview content spreads quickly and is highly sharable too.

Keep in mind, there may be some challenges involved if you want to land the most interesting interviews, but with the advice shared within this series, then you should be able to get around that.

Good luck and happy interviewing!

This post is part of a series – How To Create Compelling Content Using Interviews. You can find the other posts in this series below.

Interested in more ways to balance your life and your business? Get a reminder with my HappyBot for my free Facebook Live trainings every Friday! 

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