Interview Transcription Work – How to Transcribe Interviews

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Find out how to transcribe interviews.

Interview transcription is typing the content of recorded interviews and converting them into text.

Many businesses, organizations, students, and individuals want a transcript of their interviews.

They conduct interviews for a variety of reasons. Interview transcripts offer several benefits:

  • They provide a written copy of a recorded interview.
  • They help quickly skim and assess the content and relevance of an interview.
  • They overcome problems with voices that are difficult to hear or understand.
  • It's easier to do computer searches for specific words and phrases from a digital text file.
  • Text provides content on a website, helps search engines index your website, and helps people find your website.

Most businesses outsource interview transcription work because it takes too long to do it themselves and they need to focus their energy on their business.

Here are some companies and people who are often outsourcing interview transcription to transcribers and transcription companies:

  • Bloggers and web publishers conduct and transcribe interviews to provide content for their blog.
  • Authors conduct interviews when doing research for their books. Transcripts help them pull pertinent information from interviews.
  • Dissertation students conduct large amounts of interviews and use interview transcripts for their research.
  • Private investigators, insurance companies, and claims adjusters conduct interviews such as claimant and witness statements.
  • Radio and television shows conduct interviews. They'll pull various clips and put them together to write a polished program.  Inserting time codes into the interviews is very helpful to search for particular audio or video clips.
  • Market research companies conduct focus group interviews to gather opinions on various topics and products.
  • Oral historians at universities, government entities, corporations, organizations, and private parties record all kinds of interviews.

As you can see, there is plenty of interview transcription work available.

How to Transcribe Interviews

Transcribing interviews requires good listening skills. Follow these guidelines to produce quality interview transcripts.

1 – Get Transcription Equipment


I recommend using high quality headphones that provide clear sound to make your transcription job easier and increase the accuracy of the transcript.

Below are popular transcription headsets for transcriptionists

The spectra USB transcription headset is a good lightweight transcription headset and one of the most popular headsets of transcriptionists. Check it out here.

PROS: It is lightweight, comfortable, sturdy, you can control the volume directly on the headset, 10 foot cable, USB, and inexpensive.

CONS: It has smaller speakers which means that it has less power and the quality output is lower than headsets with larger speakers. It's also not good for listening to music.

The FlexFone FLX-10 PC headset is one of the best-sounding transcription headsets!  It's also comfortable. Check it out here.

Transcription Software

Express Scribe is the most used transcription software to transcribe audio files.  Express Scribe has a FREE + paid transcription playback software for audio. Works with PC, Mac and Linux.

You can read more about transcription software here and what the differences are between the free and paid version of Express Scribe.

Transcription Foot Pedal

Use a foot pedal to help you pause and stop the transcription tape while keeping your hands free to type without interruptions. A foot pedal makes it easier and faster to transcribe.

TIP: Set the speed of the audio to match your typing speed. Slow down the audio to be able to type for longer periods without pausing and rewinding the tape. Slow down the speed of the audio to better understand hard-to-hear or mumbled words.

To help you choose a foot pedal for transcription, read my blog post about How to Select a Foot Pedal for Transcription.

2. Find out what type of transcript your client wants

You may need to use verbatim transcription, intelligent verbatim, or edited transcription depending on the client’s preference, the industry, and the purpose of the transcript. You may not need to transcribe background noise and other sounds that are not made by the participants. You may be allowed to skip or paraphrase parts of an interview that are unimportant to the client and save transcription time.

Communicate with your clients and ask them what kind of transcript they want and what information they want to include and omit. Use your judgment and when in doubt, indicate portions of the recording that are not pertinent to the interview with a bracket.

3. Specialized terminology

Every industry has its own terminology and jargon. The terminology will vary depending on the industry, the client, and the subject of the interview.

Here are several tips to make your transcription work easier.

  • Ask clients to provide a list of unusual words and the speakers' names or spell them at the beginning of the interview recording.
  • Become proficient at online research.
  • Compile a list of words you often encounter for the industries you're working with. Keep a list of specialized words handy for reference when transcribing. Look for specialized glossaries online.
  • Read industry publications and visit industry websites.

4. Transcription formatting

The format of interview transcripts is usually simple but can vary depending on the client. Most people don't have special requirements.

Many transcripts provide the name of the interviewer, interviewee, date, time, and location where the interview took place at the top of the transcript.

Unless you're instructed differently, include both the interviewer's questions as well as interviewee's answer.

Typically, you'll use a new paragraph when changing speakers and identifying the speakers.

When words are not very clear and you make a guess based on the content, put it into a [bracket]. Mark unclear and missing words with ellipses (…)

5. Identifying speakers

The more people are involved in the interview, the more voices you’ll have to get used to, the more difficult transcription will be and the longer it will take.

Each company might have slightly different requirements.

Ask your clients if you need to identify the speakers. Some will want you to identify speakers while others don't as they know the speakers and the content and the transcript may be used for internal reference purposes by the people present at the recording.

Identifying the speakers by name can be difficult for transcriptionists as they don’t know the people and speakers will have to identify themselves.

If you don’t know the names, you can identify individual speakers generically as Male 1, Male 2, Female 1, Female 2; or Interviewer or Interviewee; or Moderator and Respondent. Ask your clients if they prefer that you label the speakers differently, such as by their initials, their first or last names, or as “Q” and “A.”

6. Estimate how much time it will take you to finish the transcript

Listen to part of the recording to check the quality of the recording, speech, and content and be aware of possible challenges you may encounter. This will ensure that you allow enough time to do the work and deliver the transcript within the required deadline.

Interview transcription is not difficult but you do have to develop listening skills.  This will come with practice. A great training program will help tremendously.

Do you want to find out more about general transcription work
and how you can get started?

Explore a career in general transcription with my FREE general mini-course

To get in-depth training,
I recommend Janet Shaughnessy’s detailed, online, multi-media, online general transcription course
Janet's course includes typing drills, transcription skills, transcription formats, grammar skills, lots of practice files, and much more.


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