Planning an Interview

As part of a research project at University, I am required to conduct an interview with someone working in technical communication or e-learning. I am required to prepare interview questions; with the interview lasting between 40 minutes to 1 hour. The interview must be conducted face to face. As part of a research project at University, I am required to conduct an interview with someone working in technical communication or e-learning.


When I started planning for this assignment, I wasn’t particularly worried. Having worked previously as an IT Assessor I am used to meeting new people and interviewing people. It’s only when I started writing questions and messaging potential candidates and companies that the complexity of the task set in. Over the past two weeks’ I’ve contacted various companies with no response which led me to messaging a couple of random people in my local area via LinkedIn. I didn’t get much joy with this – NO ONE wants to meet in person and everyone has requested a Skype call. The assignment requires me to do the meeting face-to-face which has been an immense barrier. In my current job role, I have access to publishers, SME’s, technical writers and instructional designers, however as they are all remote, which has meant I’ve not been able to use any of them for this task.


I almost gave up on the task at one point! But received an email this week from one of my candidates confirming they are happy to meet! Relief set in, followed by immense panic. What if my interview questions are rubbish? What if I make an absolute arse of myself? I started writing my interview questions a few weeks’ ago in preparation, but when I went to check and review them, I realised that the questions I had been planning to ask were suddenly not appropriate for my candidate. My mind went blank, what to do! I emailed my module leader, who gave me some advice.

I’ve since started re-reading the paper called “The Challenge of Getting Technical Experts to Talk: Why Interviewing Skills Are Crucial to the Technical Communication Curriculum” (Flammia 1993, p. 126) which outlines a framework for categorising questions in an interview. I’ve also been reading  Markel and Selber’s “Technical Communication” (2018, p. 94) which has given me some ideas on background research and using social media to search for information.

Sample Interview Guide from “Careers in Writing” (Flammia 1993)

What was good and bad?

The good, I finally have an interview scheduled! And I’m researching and preparing a new set of questions. The bad, the anxiety of the interview!

What else could I have done?

I am a member of the ISTC and SfEP so my next step would have been to post a message on the forums to ask if anyone was interested. In the worst-case scenario, I would have interviewed someone at my office at work – however this would have been the last resort.

What have i learnt?

Making good contacts in industry and networking is important – but forming a network is more difficult than I had expected. I suppose cyber crime has tainted the internet, maybe some of the people and companies I contacted thought I was a scammer?

I’ve also learnt that figuring out who your audience is (or in this case, who my interviewee was going to be) before writing your questions is important. Subject, tone, questioning style all changes depending on who you are interviewing, what position they hold, their skills and experience. It all plays a part! This was covered in one of my lectures, but I suppose it didn’t really sink in until I experienced it for myself.


Markel, M. and Selber, S. 2018). Technical communication, 12th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Flammia, M. (1993). The challenge of getting technical experts to talk: why interviewing skills are crucial to the technical communication curriculum. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 36(3), pp.124-129.

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