Ten interview hacks: how to get the perfect case study

Ben Brill By Ben Brill

Storytelling has become one of those charity sector buzzwords over the past few years.

It’s not hard to see why – stories are the currency that we trade in, and with the right one, you really can connect people to your cause.

And at a time when audiences are craving authenticity (another one of those buzzwords), getting your interview right can be the difference between a mediocre campaign, and an outstanding one.

That’s why we’ve pooled the Consider team’s collective experience and wisdom to come up with ten (count them!) top tips to help you make your questions count.

1. Do your groundwork

Preparation is key. Find out as much about your interviewee as you can. Basic biographical details can help you build up a repartee, while knowing the key elements of their story will help you shape your interview – and be sensitive to their experience.

2. Know what you’re looking for…

Think about what your campaign is trying to achieve, and how this interview will contribute to your goal. Then create a list of open questions (no yes/no answers) that will help you get there.

If you’re looking for your interviewee to share an emotional response, shape your questions accordingly. Think of follow-ups for every question ( ‘how did it feel?’ is always a good start!) that will make sure you’re getting what you need from your subject.

3. …but never ask leading questions

Remember – authenticity is key here. You might have an ideal answer in your head, but an honest one is always better.

4. Make them feel comfortable

The more relaxed your interviewee feels, the more likely they are to open up to you. Don’t be afraid of a little small talk at the start of the interview – a softer approach can be really helpful if you’re asking someone to talk about a difficult time in their life.

If you’re doing the interview in person, think about your body language as well – be as open as possible, and make sure that you’re always engaging with your interviewee, rather than thinking about your next question.

5. Don’t be rigid…

Your list of questions will help you stay focused, but a good interview should feel like a conversation. Listen to what your interviewee is saying, and respond to it.

If the interview takes an unexpected turn, don’t worry about taking a moment to reflect on your questions, and revise them accordingly. It’s better to be flexible than irrelevant.

6. …but don’t lose focus, either

Remember, you do have a job to do! If the interviewee strays too far off topic, try to gently steer them back to where you need them to be. Having a few stock phrases to fall back on can be helpful at times like this, such as, “It’d be great if we could talk more about that later [pause]… I was wondering about…”

7. Give them space to talk

The best interviewees learn to listen. Don’t feel under pressure to fill every conversation gap yourself. Often an awkward silence is the prelude to the strongest answers.

8. Don’t be intrusive

If you’re talking about sensitive experiences, acknowledge this – and let your subject know that they can take a break if they need to.

9. If it does get emotional, be human

An emotional interview can be very powerful. But it should never feel uncomfortable. As interviewers, we hold a position of trust – and respecting the interviewee’s experience and vulnerabilities is a responsibility we should take very seriously.

10. Relax!

There might be a lot riding on your interview, but if you’ve prepared properly, and followed all our advice, you should be set up to succeed. Good luck!

The team here at Consider has conducted hundreds of case study interviews over the years. If you’d like to quiz us more about our approach, or think we could help on your next campaign, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch today.

Ben Brill

Ben Brill

Creative Director

Ben came to us from Save the Children, where he was the creative powerhouse behind some of their best-known campaigns. Our story and strategy-led work brought him agency side, and he’s consistently wowed clients with impressive conceptual work. Read more about Ben on our blog.