As a Technical Writer, I have had to interview hundreds of computer professionals to better understand the technology that I would be documenting. Programmers, Quality Assurance, Implementation, Sales, Management, Customer Service, Training… I have interviewed them all! The following article reveals tips you can use to optimize your interview experience and get the information you seek.
- Interview in the morning. The morning is the time when people are fresh and are most willing to really give you good answers to your questions.
- Ask questions when you don’t understand. Sometimes to maintain our professional image we say “yes” to someone who wants to make sure that we have understood. Don’t do this…this will bite you back in the future. Make sure you truly understood what the interviewee has said.
- Prepare your questions well beforehand. Never arrive at an interview to get information on the fly, this is a disaster waiting to happen and others will feel that you are wasting their time. Get organized well beforehand.
- Use a tape-recorder if possible. With the interviewee’s permission, you can record the interview. It is hard to copy verbatim text as people speak – very difficult indeed.
- Verify what you have heard. Don’t be afraid to repeat what the interviewee has just said, to clarify the accuracy of the information.
- Submit your write-up to the interviewee before publishing. Once your interview is done and you have written your documentation or article, give them a copy to make sure that you have correctly recorded their input and ideas. This will also help you build a great bond with them professionally, knowing that you wrote a nice article about their work.
- Use visuals, if possible. In not only software, but other businesses too, images or screen shots, where possible, complement a nice information interview. It allows for the information to become clearer to the reader and the reader can more readily assimilate the article’s utility with images.
- Interview the interviewee’s manager, if possible. For bonus points, it is good to spend five to ten minutes to verify the information you received from the interviewee with his or her manager, who also has worked hard to produce the software or whatever product is being documented or recorded. Sometimes the manager has a unique perspective that the employee does not have.
- Submit your write-up to the interviewee’s manager as well. Also let the interviewee’s manager see your article before publishing. In this way, you have cleared all obstacles necessary on the level of information and also management approval.
- Back-up your work after completion. There is nothing worse than losing your work and having to interview someone for the same material twice. Highly unprofessional! Be organized always and stay on top of your virtual turf.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. :)
About the author: Keith Johnson is a Technical Writer from South-Florida with over ten (10) years of experience writing on-line and hard-copy software user manuals. Keith practices affirmations and meditation to stay well – mentally and physically – and has written a book on each of these areas. The books’ websites are: Sacred Syllable and Great Affirmations, respectively.