Last week I had my first difficult interview since starting my internship here in Portland. It didn’t turn sour until the very end, and I think I salvaged things enough that this person will talk to me again. But in hindsight, I would have done a few things differently.
When I requested the interview, I mentioned the paper I work for and they seemed familiar with the publication and its audience. I entered the interview with two objectives. First, get specific information about the story I’m writing. Second, get enough background information to understand the big picture issues that inform the context of the story and allow me to be precise in my analysis.
I should have started the interview by stating both objectives. I should not have assumed they understood the angle of my story based on familiarity with the publication.
Instead, I engaged in brief small talk about where they were from. When it led to their work in Portland, I seized the opportunity to segue into the interview. I felt slick and we talked for an hour over coffee at the Blue Collar Bakery. Cute place. Delicious gluten-free peanut butter cookies. Terrible venue for a tape-recorded interview. I think they grind the beans fresh every time someone orders espresso.
So the interview ends, I put my recorder away and they ask, “what exactly is your story about?” I can faintly smell the pile I’m about to step in but I provide a brief synopsis. “I really wish you would have told me that in the beginning, because that’s a completely different conversation.”
Scat. I feel foolish. They launch into a quick rundown of the issues while I blush and listen intently. “Too bad you’re not recording now.” No kidding. We exchange a terse farewell and I scribble everything I can remember onto scratch paper while the Max Red Line carries me to my next interview.
– Jasmine Rockow