Question Time

Interviewing people – from authors to vets, dancers to radio actors – is a really interesting thing to do.

It’s a double act between interviewer and interviewee, and the dynamic changes every single time.

Sometimes the interviewee is so chatty that all you have to do is keep the plate spinning with the occasional question, and sometimes folk aren’t used to it and the result will only be as good as the questions you ask.

The fact is that everyone is passionate about something, and it’s your job as an interviewer to dig around to find that passion with your questions, and then the whole thing comes to life.

Going on for a bit

Thing is, when it really gets going, it can go on for a bit. And I really haven’t mastered the art of cutting someone short politely! When somebody’s getting into the conversation, there’s usually so much good material flying around that you don’t want to, anyway.

Which can mean sometimes that I’m sending through 45-minute recordings through to the patient Admin team to type up. Under 25 minutes is OK, but over that and it often becomes a team effort for them, taking turns to get it done.

Honestly, our Admin team are like the fifth member of The Beatles here – deciphering interviews, sorting out competition prizes, paying the people who need to be paid . . . the list goes on.

The writing is on the wall

I had a wonderful chat with a forensic handwriting examiner the other day, and she was such a character that we ran on for about 50 minutes. What an interesting job! She also works as a graphologist – a handwriting analysis expert. Did you know some companies shortlist job applicants by having their handwriting examined? Beverley could be called in to do this.

Apparently the higher you cross your “t”s, the more ambitious you are. And if there’s a double loop within your vowels, you’re a compulsive liar. Look at vowels, she told me – they’ll tell you all you really need to know. She’s also been used in a number of high profile criminal investigations to detect fraud and forgery. Fascinating, but I knew I’d get a good-natured teasing from Admin for landing them with such a whopper!

And that was a good phone line, too – sometimes our interviewees are on their mobiles. I remember speaking to TV nature presenter Simon King, who was walking around Bath at the time, and we lost roughly every fifth word to an intermittent clicking.

Pie time!

I also remember a colleague in another office getting teased because he’d recorded a conversation on a dictaphone while both he and his interviewee were lunching on pies. Much was lost to muffled munching, apparently.

Just yesterday I finished a chat with a Police Dog sergeant, and felt very proud that I’d kept it to ten minutes. I only needed a few hundred words from him, but got caught on the hop and hadn’t prepared any questions. I wasn’t sure it was one of my best, but when Sam from Admin sent me back the transcript afterwards and said she thought it was one of her favourites, I knew I was on to a winner. Keep an eye out for it in our March 10 issue!


Read more from Alex in his previous blog – perhaps he’s looking to speak to you!

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.