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How to Interview a Person


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Do you want to make your paper or research project stand out? A personal interview will enhance any research project. Follow these steps to interview a school official, local public official, or an expert in the field.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: Fifteen Minutes to One Hour

Here's How:

  1. Call to make a definite appointment.
    Be sure that the time, date, and place are clear to everybody involved. Make sure your interviewee and any of his/her assistants are aware of the appointment. Also make sure that there is a clear ending time.


  2. Prepare a list of questions.
    If you are sharing the project with another student or friend and you're interviewing together, make sure your questions vary. Always compare notes.


  3. Call ahead.
    You may want to call the person or office a day ahead of time. This is helpful for a few reasons. First, you'll want to make sure that everyone remembers the appointment. Secondly, some public officials will actually want the list of questions ahead of time. This is fair, since some questions may require some research. Finally, if you are planning to record the interview, you should mention it. Don't take your interviewee by surprise.


  4. Put your questions and any supplies together in one place the night before the interview.
    You may want to carry a briefcase with your notes and the recording device packed neatly together.


  5. Eat before you go, even if it's an early morning appointment.
    Don't be embarrassed by a loud, grumbling stomach. Don't drink too much, however! That can cause embarrassment, too.


  6. Arrive on time.
    Set your alarm and be sure to consider traffic flow and weather. If you are late, you may not get the interview.


  7. Be courteous.
    Shake hands, introduce yourself, and explain your project. Look the person in the eye when he or she speaks. If you are sharing the interview with a friend or partner, take turns asking questions. Don't try to impress the person you're interviewing by grandstanding. That will only cause hard feelings and awkwardness.


  8. As your interviewee speaks, be mindful of statements that will make good quotes.
    When you hear an interesting comment, make a note of it.


  9. Keep an eye on the clock.
    Don't overstay your welcome. Avoid putting your interviewee on the spot by leaving it up to him or her to end the appointment.


  10. Say thank you!
    Shake hands and thank your interviewee for his/her time.



  1. If you don't have access to a briefcase, simply use a laptop case.
  2. Listen for pithy comments that would make the best quotes. When you hear one, make a note of it.
  3. If your appointment has a clear time limit, you will avoid a lengthy awkward finish.
  4. Ask your most pressing questions first in case the interviewee talks a lot.
  5. Over-prepare by bringing more questions than you plan to use, in case the interviewee talks a little. This will help you avoid long stretches of awkward silence. Some people don't interview well and they'll give brief yes and no answers. If you start to run out of things to say, go ahead and end the interview early. Just say something like "I know your time is valuable," to exit gracefully.

What You Need:

  • Note pad
  • Extra pens
  • Recording device
  • Carrying case or briefcase
  • Well-prepared question list
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