Interviews can be fascinating stuff. Watching an interview with your favorite celebrity can keep you on the edge of your seat because you want to know everything about what makes that person tick.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the dull interviews that are about as fascinating as watching paint dry.
What makes some interviews so awesome, while others are so awful?
Sometimes the person being interviewed has nothing interesting to say. Sometimes the interviewer asks all the wrong questions. And sometimes, it’s how the interview is presented to the audience.
When writing an interview essay, no matter how scintillating your subject is, if you don’t present the interview in just the right light, your paper will fall into the “as exciting as watching paint dry” category.
Let’s make your paper more appealing than drying paint, and get to work writing an interesting interview essay.
How to Write an Interesting Interview Essay
Writing is a lot like painting. Whether you’re painting a masterpiece or your bedroom, you can’t just throw paint at the surface and hope it looks right (unless of course you’re Jackson Pollock).
If you’re writing an essay, you can’t just type words and hope they sound right, either. Both take careful planning (and a lot of practice).
When writing an interview essay that you hope will be your masterpiece, you need to keep the following points in mind.
Know your purpose
Okay, maybe you don’t need to know your life’s purpose in order to write an interview essay, but you do need to know your purpose for writing the paper.
Sure, you’re writing the paper because it’s an assignment, and you need to write it in order to pass your class. But you also need to check the assignment guidelines to learn the paper’s purpose.
In most cases, you’ll be writing an interview essay to illustrate a dominant impression of the person you’re interviewing. You could write to show your readers how kind your neighbor is or how funny your dad is, or you might highlight a person’s accomplishments or strengths.
You can write the paper from a number of different angles, but as long as readers get to know the person and understand the dominant impression, you’ve accomplished your goal.
Here’s how to do that.
Plan and conduct the interview
A successful interview is essential to a successful interview essay.
If you’ve ever had a job interview, you know that your prospective employer has already done some research about you and will be conducting the interview with a set of prepared questions. You should follow this lead.
Before the interview:
- Learn what you can about the person you’re interviewing. If you’re interviewing your sister or your roommate, maybe there’s not much to research. But if you’re interviewing a professional or local celebrity, you’ll probably be able to learn more about him or her through a basic online search.
- Prepare a set of interview questions. Interview questions should be clear and succinct, with the goal of learning specific information.
You might ask closed questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer or that gather factual information, such as when your interviewee was born or what type of degree he or she holds.
But you should also ask open questions that allow the respondent to discuss information in greater detail. These types of questions might ask things that give insight into how a person feels about something or how he or she overcame a specific struggle.
During the interview:
- Take notes. You won’t remember everything the person says, so take careful notes. If the interviewee gives you permission, you might record your discussion.
- Be respectful.
After the interview:
- Look through your notes and find examples and quotes that will help you establish the dominant impression and help readers get to know the person.
- As you identify the key information that will go into your paper, outline your ideas. Unless your prof has said otherwise, your outline should follow a standard essay format, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Draft your essay
An interview essay generally contains the standard elements of an essay (introduction, body, and conclusion), but make sure your paper achieves its goal by including the best possible information.
- Include a catchy opening line. Consider using a quote or anecdote about the person that will not only interest your readers but will also illustrate your dominant impression and help readers learn more about the person you’ve interviewed.
- Include a specific thesis statement. In an interview essay, the thesis statement should identify the focus of your paper. Remember, if the dominant impression of your paper is the kindness of your neighbor, the thesis statement should reflect this.
- Help the readers get to know the person. Include additional examples, quotes, and stories about the person to help show readers who the person is. For example, if you’re writing about your kind neighbor, you might tell the story of how he volunteered at the local homeless shelter, rescued stray animals, and helped a coworker in need.
- Wrap up the essay. Bring the essay to closure by restating key ideas and leaving readers with a strong impression of the person.
Before You Label It a Masterpiece
After you’ve drafted your paper, don’t submit it to your prof until you’ve done the following:
- Take a look at your notes again. Review your notes once more to make sure you didn’t forget an important story and to make sure you’ve accurately quoted your subject.
- Review and revise your paper. Read through your paper once or twice looking for sections that need reworking. If you need a little help with the revision process, read How to Revise an Essay and Make It Better Than Ever.
- Read a few example essays.Check out a few examples to see how other writers have tackled their interview essays. If you’d like to see a couple annotated examples, read 2 Interview Papers That Ask All the Right Questions.
- Let the experts help.Kibin editors can help you add just the right (key)strokes to your paper to make it a masterpiece.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
At the end of the interview, you have the opportunity to make a closing statement. Those are the last words you will utter before you leave the office, so make them count. Since there is no definitive way to close an interview, below are some options for you to consider.
Summary Close. Provide the interviewer with a synopsis of your experience. Remember that competency-based interviews are rooted in details, so bring them up again. For example, "As a quality-focused IT professional with more than ten years of experience as a systems technician and software/hardware support specialist, I have demonstrated a proven ability to create and deliver solutions that meet corporate objectives tied to business and technology performance. I am skilled in proactively identifying and resolving critical systems/network issues that will benefit the IT department. As such, I hold a sincere interest in joining your team."
Direct Close. If you want the job, then ask for it. For example, "Thank you for taking the time to interview me today. Based on our conversation, my background is a perfect fit with the job requirements we discussed. Given that, I am interested in joining your team."
Balance Sheet Close.Remind the interviewer of the core competencies that were stressed during the interview and how your background is a natural fit. For example, "This interview has been informative. From our discussion, it is evident that the position requires an accounting representative with experience in processing payroll, quarterly payroll returns, and general ledger account reconciliation. As I demonstrated, I have the know-how in each category to begin working with little or no training. When can I expect to hear from you?"
Compliment Close. Summarize the aspects of the position and/or company that intrigue you. For example, "Over the years, your organization has been the leader in laser technology. The new strides and the direction your organization is taking demonstrate a strong commitment to the field. Since I take my career seriously and have strived to be the best I can be, I would like to join your team."
Standing-Room-Only Close. If you received an offer from another company before you went to the interview, let the interviewer know. For example, "I received a job offer yesterday and decided to interview today because your organization piqued my interest. After today's meeting, I am glad I made the decision to interview with you. This position is my first choice. When do you expect to make a hiring decision? The other employer is expecting my response by the end of the week."
Testimonial Close. Add a compliment that you received from a customer, management, or business associate. For example, "At my last performance review, my supervisor indicated that I have superior client support skills. She noted that I successfully met the company's expectations when managing hundreds of support calls per day under strict time constraints and guidelines. I would like to bring my experience to work for your department."
Trial Close. Offer to demonstrate your ability to perform the tasks. For example, "If it would make the decision easier, I would like to work on a trial basis to demonstrate the event planning skills I have honed over the years. You will find that my ability to manage details and execute plans and promotions will compliment your department's needs. How about I participate in an audition interview where you hire me on a probationary period so you can see me in action before you make a final decision?" Chances are, interviewers will put emphasis on the last words you shared, so choosing a closing statement that fits your personality, the position, and the interviewer's expectations will leave a lasting impression.
There's much more to the close of a competency-based interview than simply shaking hands and saying good-bye. The end of the interview gives you one last chance to make a strong impression, to summarize why you are the right person for the job, and to correct any misconceptions that may have cropped up. You can also find out what to expect next.
Excerpted from 201 KNOCKOUT ANSWERS TO TOUGH INTERVIEW QUESTIONS: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-Based Interview Style, by Linda Matias. Copyright © 2009 Linda Matias. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.
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