Conducting a Journalistic Phone Interview

Set the right tone for your interview by being personable.
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If you work in a marketing or publications department, it’s only a matter of time before you must conduct a phone interview. In all likelihood, you will take the notes from this interview and write an article for an employee publication or your company’s website. Interviews can bring a lively, dynamic element to any article, so bring the best tools of a journalist to this assignment, and conduct your phone interview with energy and precision.

    Step 1

    Prepare a list of questions or “talking points” that you wish to cover. Star those topics that you think will require direct quotations so that you quote the interviewee with accuracy.

    Step 2

    Decide whether you will be more efficient and accurate taking hard-copy interview notes or transcribing directly to a computer. If you choose the latter, give the interviewee a heads-up about your preferred method as a courtesy; she no doubt will hear your keyboard strokes while you are on the phone.

    Step 3

    Call the interviewee at the scheduled time. Confirm that it is still a good time for the interviewee to talk.

    Step 4

    Engage the interviewee in friendly small talk, which can calm that person's nerves. Knowing that a “real person” is on the other end of the conversation will calm the interviewee’s jitters and bridge the distance factor.

    Step 5

    Confirm the correct spelling of the interviewee’s name and any other identifying information you may need, such as her title and the names of former employers.

    Step 6

    Begin the interview with a sense of purpose. Explain what the interview will cover and what it will culminate in, such as a website article or a Facebook post. You might say, for example, “I’d like to ask you a few questions about how you've used social media to bring new patients to your clinic. I think that your experience will help other physicians use this new technology wisely and effectively.”

    Step 7

    Demonstrate interest and enthusiasm, treating the interview more like a conversation than a terse back-and-forth exchange. Without interrupting your interview subject, sprinkle the interview with encouraging phrases, such as, “Oh, I see," “That’s really interesting,” or “I bet that was a challenge.”

    Step 8

    Be attentive and ask for details and clarification. Remember that your phone interview is a means to an end -- a story -- so be mindful that you need examples and illustrations to tell your story effectively.

    Step 9

    Close the interview by asking your subject if she has anything to add that you haven’t covered with your questions. Often, this harmless wrap-up question can reveal unexpected treasure troves of information.

    Step 10

    Thank the interviewee for her time. Inform her of when and where your article will appear.


    • Understand your company’s policies before you begin the interview. Doing so will help you answer a common question from interview subjects: “Can I review your write-up before it’s published?”


    • Take note of any “overlap” of conversation that may occur if one of you is speaking from a cell phone. Negate this nuisance by pausing before you speak so that you don’t unwittingly create the impression that you are interrupting.

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