The interview questions you ask will make or break your magazine article. Here are eight things to keep in mind as you generate and ask interview questions.
- Prepare Ahead of Time. Never, ever go in "fresh," your research and preparation will be the ground you stand on.
- Set the Tone. Simply put, funny questions result in funny interviews, inspiring questions result in inspiring interviews. What is the final product you have in mind, and, more importantly, what is the final tone your editor is looking for? Keep this in mind as you prepare your questions.
- Let Your Curiosity Lead You. Your best bet is to find out what you want to know about this person, their career, or their pet project. Take your questions from there.
- Yes, You May Google. Hey, we all go to the same place as a starting point, but it's where you end up that is important. Read with a discerning eye and look for primary sources for verification.
- Avoid Cliches. Ok, to a point, you need to know if the famous banker wanted to be a famous banker when he was growing up. Fine. Just rephrase it in a manner that will elicit more material out of them.
- Avoid Yes-No Answers. Speaking of more material, another way to get it is to ask open-ended questions that will get your subject talking, reminiscing, and/or expounding on the topic.
- Go to the Source. If you're interviewing an author, writer, researcher, blogger, artist or other expert who produces a firm product, by all means, go check out that product!
- Ask the Editor. Another viable option is to ask your editor. Of course, don't expect them to come up with the questions for the work that they just assigned you, but do try to get a feel for what kind of story they're looking for.
Of course, be loose as you conduct your interview. Carefully consider your subjects words and stories, and ask appropriate questions to follow up. Do they go off on a tangent? Follow it if it's interesting! Any kind of connection you forge with this other person will contribute to a solid article, and will make it that much easier to write.