Interviewing for your freelance articles isn’t a science, it’s an art. There are plenty of landmines to avoid when you’re new to the interviewing game, but you don’t need a textbook-sized guide to help you get started. Take this advice and you’ll be far ahead of the game:
1. Don’t ask yes or no questions–giving a reluctant interviewee a chance to duck a detailed answer by simply saying “yes” or “no” leaves you hanging. Don’t ask “Are you FILL IN THE BLANK”. Instead, try asking “WHY are you…”
2. If you slip up and ask a yes or no question, your follow up question should ALWAYS be “Why?”
3. The best answers usually come to questions that begin, “How does it feel to…”
4. When you get a self-serving answer, dig a little deeper. “To someone who doesn’t really understand the issues, can you explain what you mean a little more?”
5. There will always be interviewees who have prepped answers to anticipated questions. When they start reading off their internal cue cards, try following up with a zinger. “Well, I’m sure you know a lot of people expect you to say just that. What ELSE should they know?”
6. Beware prejudicial questions. “When did you stop beating your wife?” This line of questioning, jokes aside, is passive-aggressive and counter-productive, even in an investigative context.
7. Don’t glad-hand your interviewee or throw them easy ones. Ask intelligent questions and if you don’t have any research, don’t pretend you do. Instead, try saying “Explain the issues for those who aren’t up to speed yet.” The interviewee doesn’t have to know you’re talking about YOU.