tracking telephone interviews

Drawing of a telephoneWhile I wait for a call-back from an interviewee for an article I’m writing, I thought I’d share my technique for tracking telephone interviews.

Over the years I’ve developed a breadcrumb system that allows me to assess the status of the interview scheduling process at a glance. My note-taking technique is pretty standard, but my scheduling trail is a thing of beauty.

All interview notes begin with a header that includes the person’s name, title, and contact information. If I have a long list to manage, I’ll put the name in a heading style so that it will show up in the navigation pane or outline sidebar (depending on the word processor you use — I prefer Nisus Writer Pro).

The scheduling trail goes immediately underneath the header. Here’s the trail for the person who I was scheduled to interview today:

Em 3/26 –> rr 3/27, sugg Fri 3/28 aft 2 –> em 3/27, sked Fri 3/28 @ 2:15, (555) 123-4567 –> lvm 3/28 –>

Translation: “E-mail sent on 3/26. Received reply the following day, interviewee suggested that we talk on Friday after 2:00 p.m. I e-mailed a response to schedule the interview for 2:15 and will call (555) 123-4567. At that time there was no answer, so I left a voicemail.”

Because the range of possible actions and contact methods is quite limited, this shorthand vocabulary is both small and easy to master in practice. In fact, the example above uses almost the entire set. The only others I can think of are tent for “tentative” and b4 for “before.” Oh, and there’s also wcb for “will call back.”

An arrow indicates that a next action is pending. Whenever a new step is taken, it gets tacked on to the end of the trail followed by another arrow. When the interview is completed, I type a period following the last arrow. If an interview doesn’t happen (e.g., a last-minute cancellation that can’t be rescheduled prior to deadline), I type an “X.”

This system is at its best when there is a lot of back-and-forth due to juggling schedules, playing phone tag, or being shunted from office to office in search of someone to interview. It’s also handy when you have a long list of interviewees to manage — like the article I’m working on now, incidentally.

Speaking of which, my interviewee hasn’t called back yet. Looks like that trail will have a few more arrows added to it, alas . . .

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.