I was working in a client’s office recently and part of my job involved interviewing their staff and writing profiles about them. There was standard information I needed to get for each staff member, so my client gave me a set of questions to ask every interviewee.
Someone else in the office was doing this as well, and I noticed they were doing it very quickly. With the exception of a quick Google search for his interviewees’ job titles, 10 minutes before they arrived for the interview, it seemed like he was going into the interviews without any knowledge of who he was interviewing. He didn’t have the set of questions I had, either.
I offered him my question sheet, but he said he didn’t want it. He said he wanted his interviews to feel like a conversation, and he thought asking set questions would make his interviews feel less conversational.
Whilst I felt confident I was getting the information I needed with the questions I was asking, I was afraid of coming off like an interrogator, not a human. Which is bad, especially when I remembered that copywriting is all about writing in the way humans speak.
This reminded me that I should want to know what my client’s average reader wants to know, and they might know nothing before they read these profiles. As a writer, I don’t always have to be supremely knowledgeable of the people I’m interviewing. The reason I’m interviewing them is to find out about them.
This experience won’t stop me from getting a little background information about someone before I interview them, but it’s taught me I don’t have to go crazy when doing this. If I’m confident certain questions will get me the information I need, I’ll ask them. But I won’t be afraid to put these aside if it helps the conversation. Sometimes, a good interview is just a good conversation.