Email Interview (© adiruch na chiangmai / Fotolia.com)
Email Interview (© adiruch na chiangmai / Fotolia.com)

The email interview is one of the shifts that we are seeing in the way that information is gathered by media agencies and other organizations. Often, celebrities, job candidates, scholarship applicants and many more types of people are interviewed by email rather than having a face-to-face interview. There are a couple reasons for this that we will explore in this article. Email interviews have become so common that applicants are now being taught how to do them, as well as how to do face-to-face interviews, in college courses and job classes.

The Benefits of Email Interviews

There are numerous benefits of email interviews, for both the interviewee and the person doing the interviewing. One of the major ways that companies benefit is by being able to reach candidates from around the world. The candidate does not need to come in for an interview, which sometimes the company will pay for it, and they may not actually see their co-workers face-to-face until they have moved to their new city and come to work on the first day.

Of course the corollary is also true. People looking for jobs have a lot more freedom, because they can look for jobs literally anywhere. They do not have to restrict their job search to a specific area that they know they can interview in, but instead look for companies outside of the area that are willing to do email interviews.

In addition to saving time and money, email interviews can provide something that off-the-cuff interviews cannot. They can provide thoughtful answers to well written questions. When someone comes in for an interview, unless your questions are of the same old boring job interview variety, the interviewee may not have his or her answers prepared. Some people do not thrive in this environment. That means that the answers that you are going to get do not really reflect the person that you are interviewing. Allowing them to think about their answer and write it in an email can give you more insight into that person's abilities and personality.

How Email Interviews Are Done

Doing an interview over email can definitely be a great way to get to know a potential job candidate; Email interviews may also be perfect for journalists who do not have time to go to the source because of deadline constraints, and even interviewers and smaller media companies that are interviewing celebrities may want to consider email interviews. The first thing that needs to happen for you to do an email interview is make sure that the person is willing. You should also ask how many questions they are willing to answer.

You should definitely have some communication with your interviewee before you actually send your questions. Introducing yourself, explaining how you're going to use the interview information and describing how you came across up with the idea of interviewing him in the first place may put them at ease and help them to be more comfortable with your interview.

You may also want to discuss beforehand with your interview subject what kind of topics you will be covering. In addition, let them know how many questions you'll be sending. If you need to, tell the interviewee how quickly you need their questions answered and back in your inbox. All you need to do after that is come up with some great questions and wait for their response.

Email Interviews from the Other Side

Now, we're going to discuss email interviews from the perspective of the person doing the interview. This will allow you to have a good overall understanding of how an email interview works.

  • First, let's talk about some of the things that the email interview should include, particularly the first email when they first initially contact you for the interview.
  • You definitely want to know what position they are interviewing you for. If you are looking for a specific position and they think that you are applying for something else, neither one of you is going to be very happy with the results.
  • The date and time that they are going to be sending out your email interview so that you know to look for it.
  • You also want to know who the person is that is writing your interview questions. Essentially, this is the person that is interviewing you. If a different person is going to be reading your interview questions, you may want to know this as well.
  • Finally, the invitation email should include some sort of contact information so that if you have any technical problems or don't understand something you can call real person and get help.

The Controversial Email Interview

Some people actually do not consider the email interview to be a real interview. This might be because since you can take time and think of your answers in advance; you aren't really doing an interview, but instead basically writing an essay. But email interviews continue to happen because they are convenient and easy to do. Some interviewees prefer email interviews, even some celebrities.

Email interviews are being used by journalists more and more because of tighter deadlines and the need to get an expert quote. When you do an email interview with someone, you can simply copy and paste their quote and you won't ever have to worry about misquoting them.

More Email Interview Tips

If you want to do successful email interviews, then you definitely want to avoid asking the same questions that everyone else asks. It doesn't matter if you are an employer or journalist interviewing a celebrity, if you ask canned questions you're going to get canned answers.

Second, if you want to use a new technique that is actually going to get you some great information, do your email interview one question at a time. The advantage that this has is that you are able to ask questions based upon the previous answers. Not only does this mean that you're going to waste less of the interviewees time by asking questions they already answered in the previous one, it also means that you are going to be able to ask deeper, more probing questions. You may even be able to think of ones that you might not have thought of if you hadn't read that answer first.

Of course, you don't always have to do an email interview. You can use email to set up the interview, and then use a messaging service like FaceTime or Skype to do an actual person-to-person interview.

The bottom line is that while email interviews definitely have their advantages, not everyone is a huge fan. There are some people that prefer face-to-face interviews and don't even trust email interviews because they can't be sure that the person they're interviewing is the one answering the questions, in other words, that the interviewee didn’t just forward the questions to someone like a publicist.

But for most people, in a casual environment, doing an email interview might be less expensive, more convenient and a better overall solution for interviewing guests, finding new employees or journalism. You will have to decide for yourself if the email interview is something that you would like to use in your life.


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