6 Key Questions to Ask During Interviews
I recently had a writer ask me for tips on coming up with interview questions — and I realized I’ve never done a blog post on this valuable topic!
Interviews are important — they’re where I get most of the information for my articles. So preparing for them and asking the right questions are key. I’ve done thousands of interviews over the last 15 years, and over the years I’ve developed a loose set of rules I follow for each interview. Here are the six key questions I almost always ask:
1. How’s the weather?
I like to loosen up the source — and myself — by asking about the weather in their area, how their holiday went, etc. Sources seem grateful that I don’t just jump in and start asking them the hard questions!
2. Hey, that reminds me of another question… ???
I create a very casual list of basic questions and use these as a guide instead of sticking to the list like glue. Through your initial research you should come up with a few good questions. Use these as a base to riff off of — more questions will come up as you do the interview. It should be more like a conversation than a third degree, as sometimes the best info comes up in response to questions you didn’t know you were going to ask.
3. How do you spell your name?
Always be sure to get the source’s full name (and spelling), credentials (PhD, MD, etc.), phone number and email address (for the fact checker) and mailing address (so you can ask the editor to send the source a copy if the magazine isn’t easily available on the newsstand).
4. Can I ask you a stupid question?
If I’m new to the subject I’m interviewing the source about, I come clean. For example, for a recent interview on the janitorial business, I told the source, “This is my first article for this magazine, and you’re my first interview — so I might ask you some stupid-sounding questions.” He got a laugh out of that, and I got my questions answered. Don’t be afraid to keep asking until you understand a concept!
5. Is there anything I didn’t ask you?
One thing I always like to ask at the end is, “Is there anything you thought I would ask but didn’t?” Sometimes sources prepare for the questions they think you’re going to ask, so you can get more good info this way.
6. Can I contact you again?
At the end I also like to ask, “Is it okay if I email or call you if anything comes up while I’m writing this article?” They ALWAYS say yes, and it helps you become less fearful that you didn’t get everything you need. You can always go back!
How about you: Do you have any great tips for coming up with interview questions? Share them in the Comments below! [lf]
Also, a quick note: I’m booked up with phone mentoring clients for January but have spaces starting in February. If you’re interested, read more details and testimonials on the phone mentoring page!
If you liked that post, you might also like:
- Why You Shouldn’t Do E-Mail Interviews Unless You Really, Really Have To
- My Dirty Little Secret — And 5 Ways to Beat Your Fear of Interviewing Sources
- You Ask, I Answer: Do I Need the Expert Before I Query?
- Bust My Excuse: I’m Afraid of Interviewing!
- Are You Making This Writing Mistake That Costs You Valuable Time?
Jan 10, 2013 Interviewing