How to conduct an interview to write a great profile

Interviews provide context and insight into people’s experiences that readers can easily relate to. In this tutorial, learn how to conduct an interview and write a community profile that shows your subject as the hero of the story. Use profiles to help others learn how to be successful with TYPO3.

In this tutorial:

This is a tutorial as part of the Community Writers Program for TYPO3, prepared by Open Strategy Partners. Contact Heather on TYPO3 Slack if you have any questions.

Photo by Deluvio on Unsplash.

Why do interviews matter?

To create compelling content marketing, we need convincing stories. In the Community Writers Program for TYPO3, we’re demonstrating how someone can be successful using TYPO3. The best examples will paint a picture for the reader about someone they can relate.

When you can quote your subjects, in their own words, you have the best kind of content.

  • Quoting an expert’s answers to the right set of questions, helps us create expert-level content without being experts ourselves.

  • Quotes also provide testimonials, proof-points, and supporting info that can be reused in other articles—and link back to the source—providing another link to further strengthen the network of content you’re creating. This improves organic search results, and builds credibility around a topic area.

What do you think makes a great interview? Pick an example you like and consider why you like it. Here’s one from - Sustainable websites make sustainable businesses -  This is an article about the importance of relationships, and the profile emphasizes that. This profile shows how Jochen Weiland’s open source community involvement leads to business success.

How to prepare to conduct an interview

Five key principles of a great interview

  1. Demonstrate empathy. Most importantly, make the person feel valued as an expert in their experience in their perspective. Demonstrate genuine interest and curiosity. This is about them not you. Be empathetic. This can get emotional, that is good!

  2. You have to listen. To capture the subject’s impressions and ideas in their own words, you have to keep quiet. Give them time. Relax in the silence.

  3. Elicit answers by asking open-ended questions. For example, “Tell me more about …” or “How did you feel about …” are follow-up questions to draw out further information.

  4. Look for the story. Ask about things that happened, and what they did. Dive deeper! Seek examples, specific instances, “can you remember a time when … ?” To build a story, seek before and after information. What was the challenge/problem? And later you can build the picture of how they resolved it.

  5. When in doubt, ask! Experts love to talk about their expertise. And they’re usually very happy to explain it to others. If your subject uses a word or term you don’t know, ask them about it. Take the chance to learn; this can only improve the content you’ll be creating based on this conversation. Even if you do know about a term or topic, ask them to define it for readers who may not know.

Prepare for interviewing

Preparation is essential for a content marketing interview. Research your subject and find out what is interesting about them. Knowing a bit about your interviewee will help you build rapport and demonstrate your curiosity about them. 

  • Be clear about the goals of your interview. Who is your audience? What information do you need the audience to know? What are your target pieces of content? What is your interviewee promoting?

  • Do research about your subject beforehand. If they have a blog or social media profile, what have they been talking about lately? This is a nice icebreaker, it also shows your interest and preparation.

  • Whichever way you like to take notes, if it’s a Google doc or a paper notebook, make sure you have it handy.

Technical preparation

  • Check your recording devices work. Listen back to make sure!

  • If online for a podcast or a video. Decide what quality is good enough or acceptable?

  • If you’re using it for research or written material. “Good enough” is OK! Use a phone, anything is ok.

Post-production tools

In this activity, we assume you're creating a written article from a recorded interview. 

  • - Export your video or audio file, and use this in-browser tool for timecoding your interview.

  • - A paid service to transcribe audio to text.

Learn more with these resources

Useful articles about conducting interviews for content marketing.

Example interview questions

OK! Are you ready to conduct your interview? These are suggested questions below. Tailor these to your interviewee and topic. Take note of the principles above, and elicit further information from your interviewee, let them lead you to their story.

Keep to the time. If you promise a short interview, keep it short.. This respects the time your interviewee is giving you. You can write a useful profile from an interview of 30 mins. A focused, shorter interview also makes it easier to transcribe and write.

TYPO3 questions for a community profile interview

Goal: Show that the community around TYPO3 CMS is made up of a broad selection of experts with a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets.

Question and follow up questions

Why you’re asking

Before recording, as part of your introduction Explain your motivations and WHY you’re interviewing them.

Develop a rapport to make a personal connection.

Introduce yourself, keep it short and focused on why you’re interested in talking to them.

Capture consent as soon as recording starts

“Will you say your name? And that you consent to being recorded and you consent to the contents of the interview to be used online?”

Follow up: If you say something “OFF THE RECORD” or make a correction, just say that.

Say this before you start recording.

Tell us about yourself

  • Name. Online handle, social profile? How can people find you?

Capture an introduction in their own words.

  • Get impressions of their personal background

We’re building context and empathy with a real person.

What’s your current role and where/for which company?

  • What does your company do for what sort of customers?

  • What sorts of problems are you solving for customers?

A chance for them to talk about their company’s vision and services. Gives context to the rest of the interview for the reader.


… We need to nudge them to say more than “We build websites …” :-)

If asking about a client’s user or someone else’s experience.

  • How does TYPO3 fit into this?


What’s a typical work day like for you?

  • How does TYPO3 fit into that?

Paint a picture of how they use TYPO3.

When and how did you discover TYPO3?

  • (Follow up, looking for threads about other technologies, comparisons, etc.)

  • How did you find installing/evaluating TYPO3 CMS? (compared to other tools)

Discover if they have an interesting origin story. This is useful for newcomers. 

Tell us about your experience using TYPO3 CMS.

  • What do you like about TYPO3 CMS?

  • What has made you stick with TYPO3 all this time?

Especially if someone is new to TYPO3, capturing their initial impressions is interesting. 

Can you share an example?


What is the coolest thing you’ve built or done with TYPO3 CMS?

  • What benefits did it deliver?

  • What change did it cause, create, or enable?

Give them a chance to show off! (And maybe get material for a case study.)

What is your favorite thing about TYPO3?

  • What is your favorite technical feature or aspect of TYPO3 CMS?

  • Why is that?

The most common answer to the first part is “the community”, which is why we add another version, queuing an answer about something different. The favorite technical thing might be an opening for a best practices or similar post.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

  • What should people should know about TYPO3 CMS?

  • Do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share?

Always provide an open ended option at the end to allow people to add something that came to mind, but you may have overlooked.

Are there any upcoming events, good news, or announcements you’d like to share with readers?

Give the interviewee a chance to promote something they are working on now if it's related and interesting to your readers.