If you’ve ever watched TV, YouTube, or any other media outlet, chances are you’ve seen celebrity interviews that have gone horribly wrong.
There are, of course, times when the interview falls flat because the celebrity just doesn’t want to answer questions. But there are also times when the interview goes badly because the interviewer asks insensitive or absurd questions.
Interview fails can be hilarious if you’re watching from your living room, but if your prof falls into hysterics when reading your interview essay, suddenly it’s not so funny.
If you want to make sure your interview essay isn’t an epic fail, check out these two annotated examples to see what successful interview papers look like.
2 Interview Papers That Ask All the Right Questions
Each of these examples follows a basic interview essay format and includes a dominant impression of the person being interviewed. The dominant impression is the overall mood or effect you want to establish as a writer.
I’ve included comments throughout each paper to illustrate strengths and areas that would benefit from revision.
Looking for more help with understanding the components of an interview essay? Read How to Write an Interesting Interview Essay.
Interview Paper Example #1: An Unexpected Career: An Interview with Theresa
This interview essay doesn’t focus on a personality trait but instead highlights the professional accomplishments of the writer’s mom, Theresa.
An Unexpected Career: An Interview with Theresa
 When I was a kid I grew up eating mac and cheese, frozen pizza, and hot dogs.  This wasn’t because my mother did not know how to cook, in fact she is an expert cook with 30 years under her belt. Theresa’s first experience with cooking was not one by choice. She worked second shift at the local truck stop as a waitress. One day the third shift cook called in and there was no one to cover the shift so she got stuck staying to cover. Having never cooked in a restaurant before, she was beyond nervous since grumpy tired truckers were not the easiest to please. She made it through her first night ok but it wasn’t long until they asked her to cover another shift during a bad snow storm. The restaurant got slammed and she was the only cook on.  Just when she was ready to give up she stepped back looked at the long line of orders and told herself “take a breath, you can only do as good as you can” and then continued to tackle the orders. *
 This essay begins in first person. In most academic writing, third person is required.
Check with your instructor to see if first person is acceptable in your interview essay.
 The opening clearly establishes that the focus of the paper will be the writer’s mother (Theresa) and will focus on her career as a cook.
 Here, the writer effectively uses a direct quote from his/her mother to help readers see the interviewee’s personality.
While the quote is effective, the necessary punctuation surrounding the quote is missing, which could addressed in the revision process.
* The opening paragraph contains an example to describe Theresa’s introduction to professional cooking.
Use of these types of examples illustrates the dominant impression and shows readers more about the person you’re writing about.
However, the focus of the essay would benefit from having a stronger thesis statement.
It was after this that Theresa started to see the change in her attitude towards cooking and began to enjoy it more. She was always setting goals for herself to reach, and once she reached them she set a higher one; “no one can ever reach their best” she said. After managing the truck stop for several years she decided to buy a restaurant in Caledonia and named it Bluff Kountry Kafe. She took pleasure in owning and operating a restaurant but after having a fourth child, she decided that it was too much work and sold it. *
* In the above paragraph, the writer uses two examples to illustrate the first steps in Theresa’s cooking career.
The writer also integrates another quote to help illustrate Theresa’s feelings about her career.
These types of examples and quotes are essential in establishing the dominant impression.
It was not long until another cooking opportunity came along. A friend of Theresa’s was opening up a restaurant at the local American Legion Club. She was asked to be the kitchen manager since her friend knew little about it.  Theresa was the only cook for a while but eventually it was busy enough to hire more cooks. During this time she was able to create some of her own unique things for the menu such as the mess hall (a hash brown omelet with ham cheese onions and mushrooms), which was their best seller for breakfast. The mess hall was a hash brown omelet with ham cheese onions and mushrooms. They served Breakfast lunch and dinner and did catering as well. Theresa enjoys cooking breakfast the most because she finds lunch to be rather boring. On an average Sunday morning she made around 200 breakfasts. This is a small amount compared to the amount of people she has had to cater to.
 The end of this paragraph not only illustrates additional examples, but also illustrates a progression in Theresa’s career.
It highlights her successes by describing the unique menu items she created.
Theresa did not do her first catering until she worked at the Legion. She really enjoys the challenge that catering for a large group.  She has catered as many as 500 people at an event. Theresa remembers her biggest catering like it was yesterday. A wedding of 500 people ordered her bacon wrapped chicken which was her secret recipe that she prides herself on. The wedding ended up have about 30 extra people. Luckily Theresa had made ten extra plates; however, that was not going to be enough to feed the other twenty. Even though this was not Theresa’s fault that more people attended the wedding, she still felt responsible for feeding them. She quickly whipped up another batch of mashed potatoes and opened a can of green beans. She then remembered that she had made meatloaf for the lunch special the following day. She grabbed that from the cooler and warmed it up in a matter of fifteen minutes she had enough food to serve the rest of the people.  Theresa no longer works at the Legion, but before she left they demanded that she give them her baked chicken, coleslaw, and bacon wrapped chicken recipes but she refused saying those recipes belong to her. They knew that those were the top selling items for catering and they would struggle without them. Theresa said she is not one to brag but the legion shut down about a year after she left because of the downgrade in quality of food.
 Here, the writer explains Theresa’s next career move and provides additional examples of her success as a caterer.
However, the writer does a lot of telling instead of showing through more vivid writing. While not a narrative essay per se, the same “show don’t tell” approach would strengthen the details here.
 The writer closes this paragraph with one final example of Theresa’s success in the catering business.
The fact that the American Legion wanted her recipes when she left illustrates Theresa’s skills as a cook and how much others value her recipes.
Theresa had always planned to go to school to be an accountant, but after falling into cooking she never looked back, although there are days that she wishes that she would have went on with accounting so that she would have a more stable, better paying career she still loves what she does as a cook. Theresa and her business partner are in the process of opening up their own restaurant and catering business. Along with the pay, Theresa says that another major downfall to cooking is the effects the long hours and heavy lifting has on her body. Until her dream of owning her own kitchen again comes true, she is doing small family catering.  Theresa says “Every challenge that I have taken with my cooking career has led me to where I am today, which is a place I never imagined to be.” *
 The final line successfully integrates another quote from Theresa to demonstrate her attitude toward her career and her outlook on life.
* The conclusion overall sums up Theresa’s thoughts on her career, explaining that she didn’t always want to be a cook and sometimes thinks other careers might have been a better choice.
Interview Paper Example #2: Perseverance: An Interview with a Nurse
Perseverance: An Interview with a Nurse
 A child born to two high school students, Jane describes her childhood as “poor” and holds a lot of resentment toward her parents to this day. She spent much of her childhood having to fend for herself and believing that her grandparents and friends’ parents had more input on her upbringing than her own parents. “I spent like 70% of my childhood at my grandparents’ house and like 90% of that time in my grandfather’s garage and workshop.”  In fact, Jane attributes much of her knowledge and “handiness” to him: “I learned most of my life skills from him; from a very young age, he had me doing most things for myself.”  Though this was difficult for her, it did force her to become self-reliant, which has served her well later in life. *
 The opening line introduces readers to Jane (the subject of the essay).
The opening line also provides readers with a glimpse into Jane’s childhood and her attitude toward her situation.
 Here, the writer includes another quote, but in this case, the wording is significant. The quote ends with “…he had me doing most things for myself.”
The main title of the essay is “Perseverance,” so the fact that Jane is doing things for herself at an early age is key to establishing her character.
 This thesis statement does a nice job of transitioning from the quote and states the dominant impression: Jane’s self-reliance.
* The writer uses the introduction paragraph to establish Jane’s attitude toward her parents and grandparents.
This paragraph also contains a quote explaining that Jane spent most of her time at her grandparents.
Use quotes only when the wording is particularly striking or important. In this case, the writer could have easily summarized the information in this quote.
Admittedly on the “wrong path” in her younger years, Jane struggled with who she was becoming as a person. “I was hanging out with the wrong people, making really bad choices, doing drugs,” states Jane. That is, until she met a particular high school teacher. Jane describes the teacher as a “well-educated, well-off, and very strict” person who pushed her to think about how she acted, how she could realize her potential, and what “direction to take in life” to actually realize that potential. Jane reflects, “She was really hard on me and told me about her own choices and what she had been able to accomplish, and it made me think ‘I don’t have to be this person.'” Without this influence, Jane speculates about what may have become of her: “A lot of the people I used to hang out with are dead now from the bad choices they made.”  Whatever her feelings, all of these influences, good and bad, led her to become the person she is today: a strong, independent, driven, compassionate, curious individual. These character traits and qualities influence every aspect of her life. *
 The final two lines of this paragraph again emphasize the dominant impression and point out how Jane’s influences have made her a strong person.
This does a good job of showing how these details support the focus on perseverance.
* This paragraph includes an example of Jane’s struggles in her early years and discusses the positive influence of one of her teachers.
Once again, though quotes can be an important component in establishing a dominant impression, this paragraph over-uses quotes.
 Jane describes herself as a person who is “driven, sometimes obnoxious, stubborn yet understanding, open-minded, strong, yet has a hard time saying no to people, and above all passionate about making wrong things right.” Her fiancé, Jess, describes her as an “adventurous, life-loving companion,” while her friend Teresa would use the words “determined, strong, compassionate, nature lover, and good mother.” All of these are true. Above all, she knows who she is and is not afraid to speak her mind. The many facets to her personality are what make Jane such an interesting, complex person. Indeed, she seems to be able to find common ground with all different types of people, with very little difficulty. “I just find it really easy to talk to people. I try to think about where they may be coming from, and I think that makes it easier,” Jane states.
 Keep in mind that an interview paper doesn’t always mean that you interview only the person you’re writing about.
Here, the writer has interviewed both Jane’s fiance and a friend in order to help show readers Jane’s character.
One of the things that draw people in is that she is very open about her life and lifestyle: she is unashamedly gay. In fact, this is what her friend Teresa admired most about her when she met her in nursing school. Jane speaks openly about her previous marriage and long custody battle for the son she had helped raise from birth. “I just feel like the more people who know the struggles we face will increase exposure to the bigger picture. Equal rights are important to me—for everyone, not just myself,” Jane asserts. *
* Here, the writer includes additional examples and quotes to help illustrate the complexity of Jane’s personality.
Jane faced the battle of her life fighting for custody of her son after the breakup of her marriage. Though she shares no biological connection with her son, Jane never gave up the fight for custody, despite concerns for the effect it would have on him. “I worried how the legal battle would affect him: Would it be devastating for him? Would it open new wounds? Would it destroy the life he has now?” Ultimately, Jane persevered, maintaining, “This was, and is, my child, and you don’t let your children go.” Once same sex marriage was legalized in Michigan, and after five years of legal battles, she finally succeeded in winning 50/50 custody of her son. That does not mean, however, that the battle is over; Jane and her son are still struggling to learn how to be in each other’s lives again after such a long period of estrangement. Jane states, “It definitely has been an adjustment—for both of us. The first day I had him back, he didn’t even speak to me, but things get better day by day. And we’re figuring things out as we go.” *
* This paragraph includes a more detailed example of Jane’s perseverance as she fought for custody of her child.
Mixing brief and more detailed examples is an excellent writing strategy as it allows you to discuss a variety of examples and focus on the most significant examples in detail.
She also doesn’t let her previous failed marriage stop her from finding love again and is set to marry her fiancé Jess later this month. “I’m excited for the future. I can’t wait to continue this adventure with the love of my life. I feel like I’ve been waiting for her my whole life.” One of the things Jess states she loves most is their “shared love of anything outdoors.” And while Jane acknowledges she has many varied interests, including a voracious appetite for the written word, her greatest love is “to enjoy natural beauty and the peace that comes with it.” *
* This paragraph also reinforces Jane’s perseverance by showing another aspect of her life where this characteristic has been revealed: her love life.
With the help of her high school teacher, Jane realized she wanted to “be somebody,” but struggled to find her calling. Jane recalls, “I’ve had so many jobs before nursing, like 10–15 at least. I enjoyed them all for the most part, but mostly I enjoyed learning and mastering them. Then I was ready to move on.” Jane attributes this to “a need to find new challenges.” Once she found nursing, she realized that the infinite number of challenges and specialties within the field would provide ongoing challenges for her curious mind. Jane states, “It’s perfect. If I get bored or need a new challenge, I can change departments, specialize in a certain field, teach, basically do anything.” As a nurse, she thrives in the supervisory position; she definitely likes to be the one calling the shots and is a very capable delegator. “I don’t like to be told what to do, so I like being in charge,” Jane avows. As her fiancé would say, “She is bossy, but good at it.” Her greatest assets as a nurse are her desire to “do what is right in any situation” and a drive to know more, to do more. Knowledge is power. She also never forgets the most important component of nursing: the patient.  Her patients are the number one priority; she will “fight for their health, safety, and rights.” “Because who else will?” she speculates. *
* The above paragraph transitions from Jane’s personal life to her professional life.
This discussion is effective as it illustrates Jane’s character via various aspects of her life.
Is she perfect? No. But overall, she has a very strong moral code and is not afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right: in love, in life, in her career. It is this strength that enabled her to overcome obstacles in her journey through life. In fact, the most important thing she would want people to know about her is that she “won’t give up.” The greatest thing I have learned from knowing her is the value of believing in yourself: to be who you want to be, to stand up for what you think is right, to just take a stand. She is an asset to any facility where she works and a bright light to all who know her. I am proud to call her friend. *
* The conclusion includes a significant quote as it establishes Jane’s personality in her own words and again emphasizes the dominant impression of perseverance.
If you still have questions or are struggling with your interview paper, here are some additional resources:
More example interview papers:
- Expository Essay Interview with Grandpa
- Interview with Professor Bill Mathews on the Rapid Improvements in Modern Technology
Interview paper writing tips:
- Why Eliminating Wordiness Is So Important for Your Essay
- Passive Voice: 3 Things You Need to Know for a Better Essay
- How to Write Good Essay Titles That Are…Good
- How to Write a Profile Feature Article
If you’ve been interviewing friends, hoping to find someone qualified enough to review your essay, look no further, your friends at Kibin are here to help!