As a content writer, I write blog posts in a variety of styles on a range of topics. Yes, some writing topics are more fun and more creative than others, but no matter what the industry, my favorite writing is on the people behind a company. The employee feature is a great piece of content, and if it’s not already in your content calendar, it should be added immediately. Sure, writing about products, industry-specific news or giving answers to commonly asked questions are all great ways to develop content for your site, but above all else, people like reading about people.

Now, writing employee spotlights takes just as much work as researched blogs or info-heavy FAQ posts. The employee spotlight’s success hinges on one thing – the quality of the interview. As a writer, this task falls on me. The success of this blog comes down entirely to what questions are asked and how comfortable the employee being interviewed feels. When interviewing, I usually follow a pattern for getting my subject to open up and give me good material to use.

Step One – The Basics

What better place to start than the beginning with a few of the basic questions to get things rolling? The first step is getting the facts right. Even if your interviewee’s name is John Smith, ask for the correct spelling. Building an entire blog around someone and pushing it out on social media with the incorrect spelling would be super embarrassing right? Yeah, it is. Make sure you get the correct information and start developing a rapport. The other reason to start with the basics is to get to know each other a little bit and make the person being interviewed feel more comfortable and willing to share things with you.

Step Two – The Job

People are usually more comfortable talking about what they do and their work than they are about personal details of their lives, Taking the conversation to the next level with a good, open communication about what they do helps you, the interviewer, get a more thorough idea of who the person is and what they do on a day to day level. This step is important in moving past the basics, going a little more in depth and developing that level of trust, so that when you do get to the personal stuff, they don’t  feel like a complete stranger is trying to know details of their life.

Step Three – The Personal Stuff

Okay, this is the tricky part. You shouldn’t be asking anything too personal. Stick to questions about hobbies and favorite things to do outside of work. If you have developed a good rapport and feel comfortable asking more specific questions, go for it, but be prepared to gracefully move on if they don’t want to answer your questions. One way I like to get around this is by asking them to share something with me that they feel comfortable sharing with their customers or their favorite story for work. The last thing you want to do is make your featured employee uncomfortable, but sometimes to get to the good stuff you have to push just a little bit. Most of the interesting content will come from this set of questions, but without a good foundation and solid rapport through the entire interview, the person you’re interviewing probably isn’t going to tell you much outside of the generic information.

When the interview is finished, make sure you thank them for their time. Everyone’s time is valuable and  you just took time out of their day to ask them questions, so it’s nice to let them know you appreciate it. Once the employee feature is written, let the subject of the post read it before publishing. How would you like it if someone wrote about you and didn’t let you read it before it is posted all over the internet? I certainly would not be thrilled.

Everyone has their own style of interviewing. These are things that I have found useful for interviewing and writing successful employee features. Would you add anything to my ideas?