How to Become a Better Interviewer.

Lev Lyonne


When I say become a better interviewer, I do not mean in a business setting. I’m not going to teach you on how to conduct job interviews, because those are an enigma to me. However, I am very experienced with interviewing people on a personal interest level, both for this blog and in real life. From 2013 to early this year, I co-hosted a local cable show where I interviewed dozens and dozens of people in my city.


Whether you are new to blogging and want to interview people for your site, are starting a podcast where you’ll have guests, or featuring people on Instagram, knowing how to interview people is an essential skill. I hope you find these tips helpful!


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#1. Don’t talk about yourself too much.


The subject of the interview is not you, so do not make it all about yourself. You must be a gracious host and shine the spotlight on your guest. Here is an example of a bad way to structure your interview.


Guest: So, yeah, I just really like reading about love triangles!


Host: Great. In my book, I would like to mention, there are a ton of love triangles. I think that my characters are really balanced though, because I work really hard to make sure each love triangle is necessary and I never linger too long on each pairing, and in Chapter Eleven of my second novel-


Obviously, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about it. It is really good to engage in conversation with your guest, and to make it feel natural, but no one wants to read a paragraph about your personal thoughts. There are other times for that. The interview should have the light shining on your guest. Here is a more appropriate interaction:


Guest: So, yeah, I just really like reading about love triangles!


Host: So do I! I find they are actually quite rewarding to write. Do you find yourself writing them more in your fantasy or contemporary work?


In this interaction, you are still engaging with the guest, but there is not an entire paragraph all about your opinion.


#2. Do your research.


Never go into an interview blind. Take the time to go to their website and do research. Read their work (even if it's just a sample on Amazon) and check out their social media. Ask them questions before the interview, so you can get a feel for who they are. If you do your research, it will make speaking to them and asking insightful questions so much easier.


#3. Ask good questions.


This might seem extremely obvious, but there are a few things I mean by this. There are good questions, there are bad questions, and there are boring questions. Always consider the wording of your questions, to make them the most engaging.


Bad Question: Why do you write like that?

Boring Question: What is your favorite way to write?

Good Question: How would you describe your writing style?


Also, take the time to write out a list of questions while you are doing your research. If you are interviewing them live, rather than sending over a list of questions, it is extremely beneficial to have a list of good questions on hand. Ask original questions, showing that you are truly interested in their work and what they have to say. It’s also important to ask questions that genuinely interest you.


#4. Give your guest a warm welcome.


No one likes an unfriendly person. You don’t have to be the bubbliest or sweetest person in the world, but no one likes speaking to someone who seems aloof and uninterested. When you are in an interview, you and your guest are in a partnership. Make sure you’ve spoken to your guest, make them feel comfortable with the questions, engage and truly listen to them, and try to be as friendly as you can. Not only will your guests appreciate this, but readers will be able to recognize the warmer tone and be more drawn to future work from you.


#5. Make sure the interview is focused.


When you are talking to someone in real life, the conversation will slip and slide all over the place. In an interview, you are there to talk about something specific, so make sure you stay on track. You don’t have to talk about other things, or bring up other points, but do remember that they are there for a purpose. Before the interview, ask them if they have a niche topic or subject they would like to talk about.


When I interview authors, I will always ask questions about the project they are promoting, but I will also include an overarching theme, so it’s easier to formulate and focus on certain questions. If I was interviewing a YA fantasy writer, I would write down in my notebook:


Jane Doe Interview


Topics: Her Book, Writing for Young Adults, Elements of Fantasy


It helps keep the interview organized and will help you develop questions.



Extra Tips


  • Don’t ramble. Keep your questions and answers engaging, but simple.

  • Listen to their answers and let the conversation flow in their direction.

  • Keep it professional, but friendly.

  • Do not be patronizing. I’ve seen this on some sites and podcasts and I think it is the rudest thing ever. Everyone, please play nice.

  • Remember that they are doing you a favor, just as much as you’re doing them one.

  • Websites are a great place to do research on your guest, as they usually have their current projects, their old projects, and info about them. If they have a website, definitely utilize it.

  • Read other interviews they may have done and ask different questions.


Conclusion


Becoming a good interviewer really takes nothing more than curiosity, warmth, and a genuine interest in your subject. It’s all about organization and good listening, but anyone can become good at interviewing people. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I wish you the best of luck in all your interviewing endeavors!