Phone Interview Tips for Introverted Copywriters Who Hate the Phone

Linda Mulcahy
June 17, 2019

Introverts are drawn to writing careers because we love being alone in our own heads. Googling, reading, pondering, outlining, drafting, editing, proofreading . . . all of this requires little more than our laptops and our brains. Just the way we like it.

But sometimes, to do our jobs well, we need to include other people. (Wait, it gets worse.) By talking to them on the phone.

Copywriters conduct phone interviews with all kinds of people:

  • Clients, of course, to understand their needs
  • Our clients’ clients to figure out their pain points
  • Subject matter experts to better understand a product or service
  • Donors, employees, or other stakeholders for profile pieces

As with anything in the hate-it-but-need-to-do-it category, preparation helps.  

Do Your Homework

  • Clarify the purpose. Why are you talking to them? What do you hope to gain? Write down that goal and keep it in front of you throughout the process.
  • Research the person. Use LinkedIn, news sites, and other internet sources to familiarize yourself with your subject, the industry, the company, etc.     

Prepare Your Questions

  • Don’t wing it. Even if you’re super comfortable on the phone, it’s still a good practice to have a set of open-ended questions ready for the conversation. This will help you avoid rabbit trails and ensure you get the information you need.
  • Highlight key questions. You want to come away with enough information to write your copy well, so highlight the questions that you absolutely must have answered.
  • Send your questions ahead of the interview. Some interview subjects appreciate this greatly! It helps them get in the right frame of mind (just like it does for you). Plus, they’ll have time to gather specific data without wasting your time on the phone or getting back to you later.

Warning: The temptation here is to send the questions and ask for an emailed response. We could avoid the whole “hop on a call” thing entirely. Don’t do it. As much as we may not like it, a phone call lets you build rapport, get more detailed information, ask follow-up questions, and uncover compelling angles. Plus, some people prefer human interaction.

Prepare Your Space

  • Minimize distractions. Turn off phone alerts, TVs, and noisy overhead fans. Clear your desk of anything that will divert your attention. Ask coworkers and family members not to disturb you. Don’t try to converse from the coffee shop.
  • Gather supplies. Have extra pens and paper handy if you’re taking notes by hand. Keep a glass of water nearby.
  • Test your recorder. If you’re recording the conversation, make sure your device or recording app is working and the playback is clear.
  • Set your timer. When setting up the interview, tell your interviewee how much time you would like. Then, use a timer to make sure you stick to that promise.  

Conduct the Interview

  • Introduce yourself. You might want to script out your intro so you can just read it. Once the conversation is underway, your nerves will settle down and you’ll be able to speak more naturally.
  • Confirm availability. Ask if it’s still a good time to talk. Even if the appointment has been on the calendar for weeks, things happen. Better to reschedule than try to get what you need from someone who’s feeling distracted or rushed. Mention again that you plan to take only xx minutes.   
  • Start with an easy question. This helps everyone settle in. Then work your way through the rest of your questions.
  • Elicit more. Go ahead and ask what seem like simple questions. “What exactly does this product do?” “How does it help your customers?” Even if you think you already know the answers, hearing this person’s take could provide excellent insight for your copy.
  • Listen. Introverts are generally good at this. Do offer a timely “sure” or “mm-hmm” to let them know you’re still there.    
  • End the call. Wind down with “Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to share?” Thank them for their time, information, and insights.

Then, when it’s over, treat yourself. You did the hard thing. Now go back to the joy of solitude and start writing.     

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