Interviews are a great learning resource and can be used to obtain expert knowledge or allow people to share their experiences or opinions.
Tips for preparing for an interview
- Make sure your questions are well prepared. Have them printed off and at hand.
- You may not need a lot of questions. As a rule of thumb, one question equals one minute of edited video content. An interview at VU usually consists of five to six questions.
- Resist sending the questions to the interviewee prior to filming, even if requested. Letting people pre-read the questions will often result in awkward answers as they try to remember their curated responses. Instead, supply them with a list of topics you’re likely to cover and let the conversation take place naturally on the day.
Tips for conducting for an interview
- Make sure the interviewee is comfortable. Being on camera surrounded by lights feels unnatural for most people. Remind them that there are no right or wrong answers and the final interview will be edited. It’s also quite ok to have multiple attempts at answering the same question.
- Start generally. Let people ease in to talking on camera so they’re comfortable by the time you ask more in-depth questions. Build a rapport with the interviewee. This can be as simple as asking people about their day.
- Ensure your questions are open ended. If you’re looking to explore a subject, you should shape your questions in a manner which would make ‘yes’ or ‘no’ an impossible answer.
Here are some examples of good interview questions:
You’ve been researching the impact of social media on young people. What are some of your key findings?
I’m interested in the differences between studying in the block mode compared to traditional mode. Can you tell me what you think the main differences are?
While you were studying at NASA, were there any humourous or memorable things that happened you can tell me about?
- Keep your questions concise. Avoid asking too many things at once as this may confuse the interviewee. Ask the main question and follow up with more questions if they don’t get to the point.
- Be aware of assumed knowledge in a person’s answer. You both may know what mitochondrial DNA is, but will the viewer?
- Stories are good! Often an interview is enhanced by a funny anecdote or by recounting a memorable event. A story can often be a great way to lead in to why someone was called to action or ended up in their role.
- Ask the interviewee to include the question in their answer. Remember, often the question will be edited out and the narrative is built from the answers alone.
Question: How long have you worked at Victoria University?
Answer: Three years in my current role
This will not work as a standalone answer.
A much better answer is:
I’ve worked at Victoria University for three years as a Student Support Officer.
- Stay focused. Good eye contact will help the interviewee ease into the conversation.
- Try and keep quiet. For many people, it’s natural to throw out an ‘oh’ or a ‘yeah’ during a conversation but this can be problematic, especially if only the answers are edited into the video. An unidentified voice off camera can be distracting for the viewer. Instead, focus on non-verbal communication such as nods and smiles. Note: This does not apply in two-way interviews, where both participants are on camera building a conversation.
- Remember not to talk over people. Pauses in sentences will suggest interviewees are considering their answers and will sound more natural. Furthermore, when people are winding down from an answer, wait a moment before speaking and make a silent gesture to ensure they’ve finished.
- Listen carefully to what the interviewee is saying and adapt your questions accordingly. Allow yourself to venture away from your direct questions, and let the conversation develop naturally. This can often yield much better results than rigidly sticking to a pre-prepared list.
- For many videos, succinct answers work best. This is especially the case if only twenty seconds from a ten minute interview is to be used in the final edit (these are referred to as "soundbites" or "grabs"). Editing long, drawn out answers can be difficult, especially if you're aiming for a 1-2 minute video. Note, this may not be necessary if you're conducting a longer form interview which is to be shown in its entirety. For example, a person recounting their life story.