Transcribing an interview can be a tricky affair. It’s a time-consuming process – one that requires a lot of patience and, in some instances, meticulous attention to detail. With the right preparation techniques and understanding, however, you can become a master at transcribing interviews. Here’s how…

How to Transcribe an Interview: Top Tips Before You Begin

1. Define the Type of Transcript Needed

There are different types of transcripts available, and knowing which is needed will help you determine how you transcribe an audio or video interview. A verbatim transcript refers to a word-for-word log, with grammar and punctuation used in a savvy way to showcase intent and personality. This kind of interview transcript will only omit any natural um’s and ah’s in the conversation, and will include absolutely everything else. Verbatim transcripts tend to be needed for the likes of legal interviews – an employee disciplinary hearing, for instance.

Another type of transcript is a tidied-up transcript – often referred to as an intelligent verbatim or clean verbatim. This kind of transcript does what it says on the tin. It’s a translation of audio in a looser way with all the main points and details covered but errors, pauses, and irrelevant parts are left out. You might encounter a tidied-up interview transcript for the purposes of a language translation, a press release, or a business presentation.

You might also conduct an interview transcript purely to pull out some quotes perhaps for a social media campaign that signposts the audio elsewhere. Or a transcription might be needed simply for taking detailed notes in order to share information with a colleague. All in all, knowing the type of interview transcription needed will help you to better plan ahead.

2. Organise Your Time Wisely

Once you’re clear on the type of interview transcription needed, you can plan how you’re going to approach it. The length of time it will take to carry out the transcription will depend on the kind of transcription. For instance, verbatim transcriptions require a 100% level of accuracy as well as a stop-and-start approach when writing the transcript. You’ll also need to think about how speedy you are at typing and how good the quality of the audio is. For example, if the sound is muffled in places, this will be more difficult to transcribe. Plan your time with these things in mind.

You should also consider the volume of the transcription work you need done. If it’s a short interview, you can probably handle it yourself but if you need a lot of lengthy interviews transcribed, it may be best to turn to professional transcription services. 

3. Ensure You’ve Got the Right Tools in Place for the Transcription Job

Transcribing an interview is a lot easier if you’ve got the right equipment. For instance, a decent set of headphones, a solid keyboard, and a clear, easy-to-understand audio. The audio quality might not be something you can directly affect. However, if you have the opportunity to influence the audio speakers beforehand, try urging them to use a reputable voice recorder, to record in a quiet room, and to ensure everyone speaks as clearly as possible (one at a time).

Transcribing An Interview: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Listen to The Recording in Full

To get familiar with the content you’re about to transcribe, the very first thing you’ll want to do is listen to the entire recording. You can jot down notes as you go,as this will help establish an initial structure.  However, don’t be tempted to stop and start the recording and write it up right off the bat. It’s important to hear the entire thing to gauge any lightbulb moments, understand the rapport between the speakers, and tease out the general ebb and flow of the conversation. You’ll also be able to note down any words or phrases, or even technical explanations that are unfamiliar to you, so you can dedicate time to fully understanding these before you start writing properly.

While this extra stage will admittedly make the transcription process last longer, you’ll get a much better-quality interview transcription. For beginner transcribers, this is a step that definitely should not be skipped.

Step 2: Get Your First Draft Down

Once you’ve listened to the audio all the way through, you should have a rough outline that structures the piece. Now’s the time to go back and listen again – stopping and starting the tape when needed to capture all the relevant information. If you’re conducting a verbatim interview transcription, this will take some time. The key is to be patient. Take lots of breaks, and try to “chunk out” each section of the interview. At this stage, don’t worry about spelling or grammatical errors as long as you’re clear on what’s what and who’s who while doing an edit of your piece. Start with the introduction, then do part one, for instance, and so on. It will make your task much easier to manage.

Step 3: Editing & Formatting

Now it’s time to go back to the beginning of the transcription process. This is where you’ll do a proper edit of your work, correcting any spelling errors and double-checking any complicated explanations, etc. You’ll also need to appropriately format the text. This might include adding headers, bullet points, and timestamps, for instance.

How much time you spend on this pa rt of the task will depend on the purpose of the interview transcript. Think about who will view the finished result. If it’s for your own information or records, then a few spelling errors or a paragraph written in short-hand are fine. If it’s for official purposes, however, everything will need to be completely accurate, and understandably so.

So there you have it – a beginner’s guide on how to transcribe an interview. Ultimately, the key to the interview transcription process is to take your time and be patient. It’s often a lengthy operation and, in lots of cases, getting it right is of utmost importance. 

Follow the tips above and you’ll be well on your way to a great end result. Alternatively, let Global Lingo do the hard work for you. Contact us to find out more about our first-class transcription services.

Minute Taking

Global Lingo is the leading provider of high-quality, expert minute taking and transcription services at an international scale. Taking minutes in meetings, whatever the sector, can be a complex process dependent on pre-planning, acute concentration and a masterly writing technique.