Blog Interview Do’s and Don’ts

interview

Blog interviews can be a lot of fun, they really can help you get out of your shell, get some fresh perspective on your blog and from my own experience with some of my interviews, I've established a connection with my interviewees that has lasted over the years. On IFB, Mademoiselle Robot gave some great interview tips and really, I cannot stress enough to read that post.

One of the reasons I feel I have to revisit this, not from a blogger perspective, but from an interviewee perspective is because bloggers are busy, we're often juggling so many different things, and often we don't get feedback from the other side. I myself, have been asked to do a number of interviews, and while I always believe it's an honor that anyone have any interest in my experience, some interviews have left me feeling used, depleted, and feeling like my interview sucked big time. So here are some tips I hope you'll take into account when doing your next interview, so your interviewee feels good about your interview with them:

Do…

     

  1. Let them know about your site, if possible, inform them a bit about your audience, as they may or may not have heard of your blog before, and answers given to a fashion obsessed teen audience may differ from a tech audience.
  2. Do your research, why are you interviewing them? What makes them different from every other person in their profession? What makes them unique? Ask them about it.
  3. Ask concise questions that show you did your research. If you can't find anything out about them, then let them know, and ask questions you think would be pertinent to what makes them special.
  4. Be respectful of their time. Tell them what your timeline is looking like, and ASK them if it's ok.
  5. If you have any special requests, then please be mindful of their time.
  6. If you'd like to use images from their site, provide links to the images you are interested in using, and say you'd like to use these images, or ones like them, or if there are images, please send them. Help them out by letting them know what you want.
  7. Say ‘thank you' within 24 hours of the interview or the next business day.
  8. Let them know when you plan on posting your interview, and if necessary, let them know if you are syndicating the interview on any of other sites.
  9. Let them know when you've posted the interview, and thank them again.
  10.  

     

Don't…

     

  1. Don't give a person 25 generic questions and expect that they'll be happy to answer them all. If you're doing a series like '10 questions for X' that's great, just let your interviewee know, and provide links to previous interviews or a brief description of your new series.
  2. Don't ask a person questions where the answers can clearly be found on the about page of their website.
  3. Don't pressure your interviewee to publish a post about your interview.  Interview them because you find them interesting, and because you think your readers will find them interesting. Besides, they may have a special press page where they publish mentions in the press.  They may publish the link on their twitter and facebook. If they don't post about your interview, it may be for reasons that have nothing to do with you, so don't take it personally.
  4. Don't be a stranger after the interview. Say thank you, let them know when the interview has been published, and keep up with them, and keep in touch either by facebook or twitter. Sometimes I'll do follow up posts on interviewees as they usually end up creating more interesting things to post about.
  5.  

     

The good news is that there are loads more things you can do right than to wrong. Basically the only thing you can do wrong is don't say ‘thank you.' Everything else… suggestions. Not saying ‘thank you' can leave a bad impression, while they may not hold it against you outright, it may affect your relationship with them in the future. It may sound simple, I'm sure it's happened to you where someone you helped didn't say it.

What are some interview tips you've learned from either interviewing or being interviewed? Has being interviewed affected your interviewing strategies?

image by Oscalito

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31 Responses

  1. Josh Patel

    Nice tips man!!!!! Thanks.
    Btw, I really like your blog so I submitted it to Viralogy.com. That will help more people discover it! If you want you can claim your blog at http://www.viralogy.com/blogs/my/3360 which will also help your ranking. Hope you get more traffic through that!
    Anyway, I hope you have a great week and that you will be successful in every activity you engage in!
    .-= Josh Patel´s last blog ..Social Media Marketing Gurus: Chris Brogan vs Seth Godin =-.

    Reply
  2. Casey

    This is a great, insightful post! I recently started doing sporadic interviews of creative individuals that I feel my blog readers would be interested in. So far I’ve interviewed three fantastic ladies and the response has been fantastic. I’ve learned a lot from doing these, but I do have to say that being courteous and non-demanding is the biggest “rule” in how I approach every potential interviewee. I think people appreciate also that I do a bit of research before approaching them and am able to craft each interviewee’s set of questions to their interests and personalities. Certainly it takes a bit of work on my part, but I think is much more personal and goes a long way to let people know that you’re more interested in presenting them, rather than just garnering attention for your own blog.
    .-= Casey´s last blog ..the alice project =-.

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  3. Natanya

    Great post, I am actually having the opposite problem lately. I used “Little Birdie” for the first time for getting interviews and got a ton of responses. I picked three that I felt really relevant to my readers. I thoroughly researched each one and wrote up detailed and specific questions. For two of them I had written up an overview of their collections and designers bio (and SEO’d) for the interview post. I went back and forth about dates and photos, and links etc and then NOTHING! After several weeks I still have no response and follow-ups have led to dead ends. I’m so pissed that I wasted my time on this. Especially since these were not brands or people I directly asked but rather whose PR people contacted me. Aughh….
    .-= Natanya´s last blog ..Links à la Mode =-.

    Reply
  4. Jennine

    ❤ krista…thanks!
    ❤ casey, oh good i really enjoy your interviews!
    ❤ natanya, i’m so sorry to hear that about the interviewees…how rude of them! though, i have to say i have flaked on a few interviews myself. i feel terrible about it, but i think mostly it’s usually from the interviewers from before that really didn’t take the time to say thanks, then pressured me to post a link to thier site. not from the actual people i flaked on. talk about blog baggage.

    Reply
  5. Ciaa

    These are some great tips. I love doing interview because it does entertained the readers. One thing i am guilty of is too ask sometime questions that could be found on their websites. But no more of that , I look so stupid now
    .-= Ciaa´s last blog ..Arise Magazine issue 5 =-.

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  6. maria

    It shocks me that people would forget to say thank you!!

    I’m doing my first ever blog interview and I was very nervous about asking the right questions and also keeping it simple!! I would really suggest asking as few questions as possible, but make them different and interesting.
    .-= maria´s last blog ..What I Wore Yesterday: 07.19.09- A Day in Beacon Hill =-.

    Reply
  7. lisa

    This is great advice for those who are starting out with interviews! I’ve done several writing for Vancouver Fashion eZine, Stylefinds, and Solo Lisa, and I definitely agree it’s good to do as much research as possible before you begin, and always follow up with a thank-you email or note afterward. Also, I like to phrase my questions in such a way that they evoke open-ended responses: Rather than ask yes/no questions, I might ask my interviewee to describe their design aesthetic or inspiration for a certain collection, or ask questions that begin with “How…” or “Why…”. The interview process feels much more dynamic that way, and sometimes the answers might take you down a path you wouldn’t have thought of!
    .-= lisa´s last blog ..Yaletown Summer Shopathon =-.

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  8. dreamsequins

    I agree with Lisa about asking more open-ended questions… think outside the box, too. I’m sure these interviewees get asked the same types of questions all the time, so do a little extra digging to try and find other questions that might be more appropriate to ask and that might be more interesting for them to answer….

    I started out doing a ton of interviews for my blog and my other magazines, so I feel like I know what the “standard” questions are. And depending on whether you do an in person, phone or email interview, the protocol may differ. For instance, for email questions, it is probably best to be as descriptive as possible (without being overly winded– nobody wants to read a long, drawn out question that could have been more efficiently written). In person and phone interviews can go either way. Be prepared to follow up about answers that the interviewee gives you– the in person and phone interviews are more about learning to listen,and to draw out interesting, memorable answers based upon the interviewee’s body language or, if by phone, then intonation.

    Most of all, have fun with it, and don’t be nervous! People love talking and promoting themselves, and are always eager to talk to media. I have experience doing freelance writing and interviews for magazines, so if anyone wants tips or a list of standard type questions before a big interview, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to help!
    .-= dreamsequins´s last blog ..Don’t Be So Poorgeois! =-.

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  9. WendyB

    I think you should always be prepared to have sex with someone in order to obtain an interview. I’m kidding, of course. Maybe. No, really, I’m kidding! Well, send me some naked pictures and then we’ll see if I’m kidding or not.
    .-= WendyB´s last blog ..Paris, Day 6: More Castelbajac =-.

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  10. Fenke

    I’ve been interviewed a couple of times. if it is spontanious, i do not expect the questions to be well prepared but more of a general character. but if i am asked for an interview and during that interview i realize the person doesn’t know anything (or certain facts) about me/us – i do not take him/her serious. being well prepared is not only professional, but also very flattering.
    .-= Fenke´s last blog ..Katharina Blanke at Projekt Galerie, Berlin =-.

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  11. Jennine

    ❤ciaa.. oh no, you don’t look stupid!
    ❤maria… have fun, don’t be nervous! but yeah, interesting questions help alot!
    ❤lisa, you would be amazed by how some ‘professionals’ don’t utilize these points, i’m talking 25 generic questions from magazines, tv, books and they don’t say thank you either. it’s happened to me on more than three occasions.
    ❤dream sequins, good point! it’s very different when you’re in person and on the phone, much more conversational.
    ❤ wendy… somehow, i believe you!
    ❤fenke, you can’t say enough good things about being well prepared. and i agree, it does affect if i take the other person seriously or not.

    Reply
  12. Retro Chick

    There’s been a few times when I would have liked to interview people, but I’ve been too shy to ask, or I’m not sure what kind of questions to ask and I’m too scared of looking amateur.

    It’s something I’ve been wanting to possibly start doing though so thanks for the tips!
    .-= Retro Chick´s last blog ..Welcome to the New Look Retro Chick! =-.

    Reply
  13. eyeliah

    Great tips, thanks! I am new to interviewing, as you may not know you were my first one. 🙂
    .-= eyeliah´s last blog ..Breezy Pieces for Summer =-.

    Reply
  14. Vee

    I’m happy i found this article because i’ve done all the do’s and avoided the dont’s 😀
    Nice for my self-esteem
    My tip is that you can get an even better interview if you split it into two parts.
    send them the genaric questions first then based on their answers elaborate on somthing.
    this way your interview has a real purpose and you can edit around some of the questions that don’t seem to fit. BUT TELL THEM first, out of politeness.
    -Vee
    .-= Vee´s last blog .. =-.

    Reply
  15. Grace

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been contemplating asking one of my blogging friends if she’d like to be interviewed, and this really has me thinking it’d be a good idea.

    Reply
    • Sandra Harriette

      I made a list just last night of the people I would like to interview for my budding series, Along the Way. That list includes some friends, one of whom has her own art blog on Facebook.

      Because they are your friends and most likely share your similar interests than they would more than likely be willing to help. Besides, you already know your friends and your natural rapport with them will only translate and make the interview THAT much better.

      Go for it, Grace!

      Reply
  16. Akanksha Redhu

    These are nicely framed pointers. But I am guilty of one thing – Whenever an interview of my blog gets published somewhere, I myself post about it so that more people can know about it. I dont think its such a bad thing to do. It seems more like a win-win situation for both the parties.
    Great article!
    .-= Akanksha Redhu´s last blog ..Fashion Bug – Fringe Back Dress at ASOS =-.

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  17. L-A

    I agree with those who have suggested using open-ended questions. From experience and from what I was taught in journalism school, if you ask a question that can be answered with a yes or no, you’ll probably get a yes or no answer (which is horrible if you’re in broadcast). Another helpful interview tip I was given is to end an interview with “is there anything else you’d like to add?”. Some of the best quotes can come from asking that question, because even with all the prep work you do, the interview subject could think of things that you might not have.
    .-= L-A´s last blog ..While I dislike J-Biel’s Everything. I do heart me her dress. Grammar for the win! =-.

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  18. ukjobs

    I definitely agree with going to a temp-hire agency and getting work. Sure the pay is not so great for the work you have to do, but it is an excellent way to find a job. Or find out who is hiring. I have landed so many good jobs going through temp-hire agencies. Its my number one source for finding a job. I mean, why do companies use temp-hire in the first place? It is because they are in need of employees. And don’t you think they would rather just hire you straight on instead of paying the outrageous price of renting an employee. I know that agencies say that you have to work for them for so long before you can get hired on with a company. But, they don’t really have anyway of holding you or the company you want to get hired on for to that commitment. The last temp-hire agency I worked for even told me so. So, I strongly suggest using a temp-hire agency to find work when your in need of a job.

    Reply
  19. Sandra Harriette

    Great advice and I am glad to have done all of the significant and applicable DOs instead of the DONTs. The only thing is that I did the interviews well in advance of my blog developing into something that would feature content like that to begin with…but I finally transcribed that interview and it’s my first. Here it is!

    Thanks for this article too!

    Sandra

    Reply