Practice Interview Reflections

I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Sharon Scruggs. She is a delightful lady and a wealth of local knowledge. I am glad that her thoughts and opinions on life in Williamsburg will be recorded for future generations to enjoy. It would be criminal to let a community resource like Sharon languish in anonymity.

I was a little nervous coming into the interview with Sharon. This was mostly because I had never before interviewed someone in front of a group. In my past experiences conducting interviews, I was usually alone with the interviewee and could spend some time getting to know him or her before I began the structured portion of the interview. During the interview session with Sharon I felt pressure to be very rigid and formal because I knew my classmates were critiquing my questions as well as my questioning style. I felt obligated to ask Sharon questions that I do not think I would have asked if I was conducting a solo interview. I asked these questions anyway because I knew there were people out in the audience who wanted to hear questions pertaining to their research topics. The end result was a set of questions that I do not think I would have produced if I were being 100% true to my interviewing style.

An in-class practice interview for a seminar of fifteen people requires some artificial parameters, for example, strict time constraints for each interviewer. For the purposes of our class, I understand why the practice interviews have to be structured in this fashion. However, the artificiality of the process has made me realize that the way I connect with my interviewees is on a much more familiar and personal level than was allowed by our public practice interviews. Of course, there are limits to that statement (I would not interview a stranger the same way I would interview my grandmother) but in each individual case I work hard to develop a bond with my interviewee so that he or she knows I am interested in and am grateful for the information. In past interviews I believe I have been fairly successful in forging personal bonds with my interviewees. I am glad that we did our practice interviews in a stuffy, overcrowded room in front of an audience because it made me realize that a crucial ingredient in a successful interview is developing a rapport with your interviewee.

1 Response to “Practice Interview Reflections”

  1. 1 iaknig February 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

    It’s true that our practice sessions are highly–HIGHLY–artificial. Though “unusual” may be a better word, since a formal interview between two people who are brought together only for the purposes of the interview–no matter how conversational the interview becomes–is, I suppose, by definition “artificial.” One of the ideas of these practice interviews is to make more “normal” interviews of the sort of Lindsey talks about feel comparatively organic and easy.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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