I still get nervous when I’m completing a telephone interview. Not the whole stomach-turning, can’t-think, muddle-my-words nervous. It’s more that I don’t look forward to it. It’s a niggly feeling, but then when it’s started and I’m chatting, I feel relaxed and more times than not, everything is fine.
Telephone interviews are so much better than email interviews, and even though – because of whatever reason – email interviews might be more convenient sometimes, they shouldn’t be ruled out. You can always find out so much more from people when you have a conversation, generating interesting snippets they might have said on the back of a conversation that you wouldn’t have got if it was on paper. In an email, you have to give the questions you want answered, but on the phone it’s a lot more flexible. You might have your set questions you want to ask, but because of something they have said, your questions veer off into a more interesting direction.
I guess this is less of an advice post, and more of an experience post. With quite a few telephone interviews lined up from now on, I’m hoping to share tips that I’ve learnt.
- Won’t get the content I need
- Forget to ask a question
- I get one-word answers
- They aren’t interested in the interview/feature
- Can’t hear them
- How do I record it?
- Is my shorthand good enough or should I put them on loudspeaker and record?
- Do I type their answers up as I go along?
- What if their answers give me no story
Getting around them
Now this is by no means a bullet-pointed list of tips, but it’s where I started on the first telephone interview that I seemed to have done in a while.
- A list of questions – and no, I didn’t follow them that well and I jumped around a bit in the themes I was asking, but I guess the art is in writing the feature.
- Important things that I just couldn’t forget to ask IN CAPITALS ON A PIECE OF PAPER NEXT TO ME
- A means for writing somewhere else seeing as my laptop likes to crash about once every half an hour (luckily it didn’t)
- All the details I was given about the interview/needed to know – nothing worse than saying the wrong name
- An eye on the time – knowing how long the feature was going to be, the longer I stayed on the phone, the harder it was going to be to cut the feature down
- A recording device if my own notes seemed to fail
The end result wasn’t too bad at all. Although there were some topics I asked the interviewee about that I could tell he desperately was not interested about and didn’t want to expand his answers, he was very chatty with everything else. Let’s hope the feature reflects that!