How Do I Outline an Interview?

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When conducting an interview, it's important to remember that you are asking someone to take time out of his schedule to accommodate you. For this reason, you need to make sure that you are organized and have the interview well thought out. Creating an outline of questions and topics to discuss will help in achieving a smooth-flowing interview, during which you can gain as much knowledge as possible about the interviewee. Make sure that you fully research the topic and the person you are interviewing.

  • Research the interviewee prior to creating questions. For example, if your are interviewing an actor, look into her previous work. If you are interviewing a human resources representative about company practices, review the company policies if you can. Research will help you to develop sound questions that are relevant to the person you are interviewing and her area of expertise.

  • Write your interview questions ahead of time. Do not make questions so specific that they limit your ability to improvise with the topic. You want to have a general idea of what to ask and a direction to go without damping the flow of conversation. For example, if you are interviewing a sports star, you may want to ask him about motivation, keeping an open mind about the different motivational tips that he may want to share.

  • Categorize the questions you created. You should have a basic categorization system in place if you prepared your questions under general topics, but in this step, you need to analyze them and make sure that they all are properly placed. This will reduce the need to revisit a topic after it has been discussed, which would cause you to look unorganized. For example, if you are interviewing a teacher for an assignment, you might group questions into headings such as "education," "teaching styles" and "core beliefs on standardized testing."

  • Develop your interview outline by using a traditional outline format. Each topic or general heading will sit on the left margin and be labeled with a Roman Numeral, starting with I. Main questions in the topic will be indented one tab space and start with a number, beginning with 1. If the main topic question has sub-questions, these will be indented two tab spaces from the left margin and begin with a capital letter. The outline will continue in this format until finished. Below is an example of a standard outline format.

    I. Employee Benefits

     1. What type of major medical care are employees able to access?

    A. How much of the premium do they pay?

    1. Is this premium taken out of their pre-tax pay?

    2. Time Off

    A. How many personal days are employees allowed?

    B. How much vacation time do employees have?

    1. How much do they have when they are first hired?

    a. What is the system for accruing more vacation time?

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