The other day we talked about the pros and cons of an email interview :”Email Interviews vs Phone Interviews.” Many of the issues that apply to email interviews also apply to phone interviews. The main thing is to consider which interview is going to give you the best outcome for your article.
Phone Interview Pros
- Quick and convenient. Like its electronic counterpart, phone interviews are easy on both parties. All you need is a phone line and an agreed upon call time and you’re set. No need for anyone to dress up or travel.
- Personality shines through. It can be tough to distinguish tone and meaning through email. Things like sarcasm, hesitations and a “smile in their voice” can enhance an interview and lead to a good productive banter between writer and source.
- Identity assured. You can’t guarantee there isn’t someone listening in, but you can at least be sure you’re talking to the right person. Plus by taping your phone interview you have a standard, credible accounting of the interview.
Phone Interview Cons
- Outside interference. If you have never been rushed off the phone by an source, then you really haven’t lived as a writer. Ok, well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s nothing like the ole’ “Someone has come into the office” trick. A phone interview is more likely to get cut short by a handler, other call or a distracted or tired source. There’s nothing like trying to engage a source you can tell is only half listening while they play Farmville on their computer.
- Lack of valuable face time. If you work a regular niche, community, beat, etc., there is no substitute for people knowing who you are when you step into the room. It’s not to inflate your ego, it’s to make sure you get in where you need to to be without lengthy discussion. It’s also so you never pass a source and/or a story simply because you had never seen each other face to face. When I run into a source while out and about I never fail to gain some nugget of information during our interaction.
- The dead air trick. I love the dead air trick. When I am trying to get someone to answer a question or provide further information, I ask the question and then I *gasp* wait for the response. Pleasantly, patiently and unapologetically I remain silent and eventually people seek to fill that silence with something, anything, including the answers to questions you did and did not ask. Using that trick on the phone could leave you listening to dial tone. People generally assume the call dropped often during the silent treatment resulting in the whole “Are you there?” exchange.
There are pros and cons to both styles and writers should carefully consider their options. Some writers will only conduct email interviews under extreme pressure or use it as a ‘quick quote’ tool. Many publications, specifically newspapers want writers to disclose to their readers that the information provided was through an email interview. To recap, the best interview technique is to interview a source in person, then a phone interview is next on the totem pole and, as a last resort or for quick information or confirmation use an email interview.
Got a phone or email Pro/Con? Tell us below!