Whether you’re interviewing prospective candidates for a job, speaking with employees for a company newsletter or promotional materials, or doing market research, chances are you’re going to need some help remembering everything that was said.
After all, a big part of being a good interviewer is knowing how to listen and ask the right questions — which may not leave you with much bandwidth to take notes. These days, you could even be interviewing candidates remotely, so being able to pay attention to their body language and facial cues is key.
By automating the note-taking process, you can devote 100% of your attention to your interviewee, and review the interview transcript later. Here’s everything you need to know about what a good interview transcript looks like, and how to make sure you don’t miss anything in the transcription process.
What does an interview transcript look like?
On the surface, the idea of an interview transcript is pretty straightforward. It may look similar to a film or TV script, with a list of interview questions and their responses:
Q: What are you looking for in a job?
A: I just want a legit position … good company, my own office … likeable coworkers.
But since conversations naturally have a lot of false starts and fillers, you might not want a word-for-word transcript. There are typically three ways to transcribe and interview:
Verbatim transcripts are word-for-word transcripts that include every pause or hesitation — including “um,” “uh,” “like,” and “you know.”
Intelligent transcripts leave out stutters and filler words and may replace them with ellipses, as in the example above.
Edited transcripts are most common when transcribing a speech or magazine interview, and require the transcriber to use their discretion to get the speaker’s point across. For example, the quote above might be edited like this: “I want a legit position in a good company, with my own office and likeable coworkers.”
The ultimate format of your transcript, though, depends on what you’re using it for. If you’re posting a promotional interview on social media, then maybe you want a video transcription so it’s easy for viewers to follow along.
If you’re creating an oral history or an archive for your company, then you may want to publish it in APA style, complete with annotations and page numbers.
For the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on job interview transcripts, and why you might need one in the first place.
Why do you need an interview transcript?
Since transcripts are so complicated, why not just skip them altogether and rely on your memory or your first impressions of a job candidate in order to choose a new hire?
Well, there’s a lot of ways that could go wrong. The more people you interview in a row, the easier it is to get mixed up and forget who said what.
Here are three reasons why an interview transcript is so important:
You can stay present and engaged during the interview. As the interviewer, you can maintain focus on and eye contact with the interviewee, and avoid having to take notes or have a third party sit in on the interview. If it’s a remote interview, you can maintain good virtual meeting etiquette the entire time.
You can go back and verify details later. Different members of your team may have different recollections of how well the candidate answered a question. With a written transcript, you can make sure you’re all on the same page.
Transcripts are easier to search than audio files. Instead of having to listen to the entire interview all over again, you can use a time-stamped transcript to look up the most relevant sections.
Ultimately, interview transcripts can save you a lot of time and energy. Once you start transcribing your interviews, you won’t want to go back to taking your own notes in a word processor ever again.
How do you create an interview transcript?
The best way to create an accurate job interview transcript depends on the length and speed of the conversation, and how soon you need it completed. One option is to create an audio recording of the interview and send it to a professional transcriptionist or transcription service afterwards.
Transcribing an interview is time-consuming, and beginners may struggle to keep up with the conversation. Professional transcriptionists are trained to use shortcuts and abbreviations in order to maintain a fast typing speed.
If you’re hosting a live interview on Zoom and want a transcription that shows up on the screen in real time so viewers can follow along, then you’ll need to use transcription software or a note-taking tool like Anchor AI.
With Anchor AI, you’ll get a fully transcribed interview complete with speaker notations and timestamps, so it’s easy to read and search through later.
How do you transcribe an interview yourself?
If you do decide to take the plunge and write an interview transcript yourself for the first time, be sure to plan ahead.
Depending on the speed of the conversation and the clarity of the audio file, it can take a professional transcriptionist anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to transcribe an hour of audio, but beginners may take even longer.
Here are three tips that will make the transcription process easier for you:
Check the audio quality. First, you’ll want to start off with a high-quality audio recording. The harder it is to hear the speakers, the more often you’ll have to rewind or pause the recording. If the original recording isn’t good enough, you can use software like Pro Tools to improve your audio file.
Use the right tools. At a minimum, you’ll need headphones to listen to the interview, and a word processor to type in. But you may also want to use a tool that can slow down playback, pause, and rewind using keyboard hot keys. As you listen to the recording, try your best to type along word for word.
Proofread the transcript. Your word processor or transcription software may auto-correct obvious errors, but there still may be more work for you to do. This might include checking punctuation, editing for grammar or context, or adding in explanatory notes and timestamps. Don’t forget to include the date, location, and names of participants at the top of the transcript. Then, you can use the speakers’ initials for the rest of the transcript.
Use Anchor AI to transcribe your interviews
Of course, transcribing interviews by hand is time-consuming, so you can save yourself a lot of trouble by using Anchor AI to create a transcript for you.
Just invite Anchor AI to your Zoom interview or meeting, and it’ll automatically add timestamps and identify the speakers for you. You can even use keywords to identify action items that you need to return to later.
Anchor AI transcripts are fully shareable and searchable, so you can keep them as a reference and revisit them throughout the hiring process. Plus, you’ll always have access to the original audio file if you want to relisten to a section.