Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The phone interview vs the E-interview

One thing a writer needs to be is flexible. Whether that flexibility extends to juggling various assignments, making the time to get some work done or writing about a variety of subjects, a writer who is able to shift gears and step out of the comfort zone is bound to make big strides in their career. As a deaf writer, I have found this requirement of being flexible to include how I interview someone. This calls for not only stepping out of my comfort zone, but because I have experience with people hanging up on relay calls or refusing to accept a relay call, but taking a gigantic leap!

For the most part, if someone agrees to be interviewed, I ask if an e-interview is okay. Ultimately, I prefer an e-interview, because it gives the interviewee a chance to review their answers before sending them to me, and it allows me to quote my interviewee verbatim. (On the other hand, even with the luxury of time to review their answers, one writer interviewed in Burning the Midnight Oil: How We Survive as Writing Parents requested in an email that I change a word in one of his answers. This, several months after the book was already published.) That said, I saw the e-interview as a win-win situation.

However, many people used to being interviewed have grown comfortable with a phone interview, and so many people have requested I interview them over the phone. Usually, if I'm on a tight deadline and MUST talk to them right away, I have no problem interviewing them over the phone. And if they have no problem accepting a relay call, and communicating via relay, then all is well. But first and foremost, I request an interview by e-mail.

Because I have indeed had to use the phone interviews to get the job done, one difference I have noticed is that the interview gets done faster. I get my questions answered then and there. With an e-interview, I have to wait one or more days to get a reply. Today, however, I noticed one other benefit of conducting a phone interview, compared to doing the interview by e-mail.

One of the things you'll get to read in my Revisions book are interviews with editors and writers on the various topics covered. I try to single out the right writer to interview for that topic and, for one chapter in one section of the book, I knew I had one. I was actually pretty excited about the prospect of including an interview with him in my book, because he has impressive writing credits (among them, work done on a popular TV show). Unfortunately, this person is one very busy man, and just when we had a possible e-interview scheduled, a load of work was dumped into his lap and he expressed doubt over our ability to continue with the interview. I was dismayed, because he was the perfect writer to interview for this chapter. And not knowing a lot of scriptwriters, I doubted my chances of finding another one! He proposed a phone interview -- and I knew that it was either that or nothing! So I bit my lip and agreed, noting that I am deaf and must use relay to communicate by phone. He seemed fine with this and actually curious about a relay call. I breathed a sigh of relief and we scheduled the interview for later in the week.

Fortunately, the phone interview went well. The site I use to make an online relay call did NOT conk out on me, we were able to talk at length, and there was no trouble in trying to save the conversation. (On another relay site I have used, I once lost an entire, hour-long interview after my failed attempts to save it!) I was really excited about this success, because my source provided very helpful and encouraging information on the chapter's topic and it went really well. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable conversation and I was very pleased to be able to talk with this man who is so busy in the TV industry for such a long time on the phone. He was very nice, very intelligent, and it is definitely one phone interview that I won't soon forget.

But it's not just how well the interview went that I was happy about. It's what was added to the interview questions, thanks to a real-time discussion. We ended up talking about a lot of things, not just the questions I had on paper next to the keyboard. More and more information and in-depth conversation was added to this interview, so that it didn't look scripted. With an e-interview, my sources just answer the questions. But with a phone interview, so much more can be added to the conversation. I backtrack and say things like "wow, that's interesting! Let's talk more about that!" or "that touches on what you mentioned earlier and I think that is a great example of how that can happen." That sort of thing.

This has made me reexamine the value of a phone interview. Getting into conversation with someone over the phone, it opens doors to more information and extra discussion on the unexpected. With an e-interview, everything is just there because the writer asked those questions. And, typically, there's no picking up on little things in the conversation or following up on certain quotes.

All the same, I prefer an e-interview, but I'm not going to ask straight out if that kind of interview can be done. From now on, I'll leave that ball in my interviewee's court. Should the phone interview be welcomed, I look forward to seeing what extra information it will lead the conversation to.

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