How to Transcribe an Interview: 7 Top Tips to Save You Time and Money

Professional transcribers report that accurate transcription takes four times longer to type than the length of the original audio.

Back in the day, the biggest problem with transcribing interviews was deciphering your own handwriting. The advent of recording devices solved that problem but also created a new one – the dreaded time suck of interview transcription.

For those whose livelihoods depend on the accurate rendering of recorded interviews, transcription is a necessary evil. After all, you’ve tracked down excellent sources, convinced them to share insights, and have hours of recorded conversation to show for it. So, how do you transfer the valuable information you’ve collected into a useable document without wasting a ton of time?

7 Simple Steps to Seamless Interview Transcription

If you are interested in learning how to transcribe an interview in a way that won’t add hours to your workload or dollars and cents to your budget, Dino Insights has gathered seven tips and one great solution for how to transcribe an interview.

1. Use Reliable Recording Equipment

While every smartphone has a voice notes feature, it isn’t always the best at capturing an interview. Audio transcription software or digital recorders are a better bet. Be sure to place the recorder strategically for in-person interviews, at an intermediate length between the interviewer and interviewee. Also, using an external microphone, choosing a quiet place to conduct the interview, and doing your best to make sure that only one person is talking at a time will make the final recording far clearer.

2. Choose the Best Transcription Software

Transcription software is now more widely available and less expensive than ever! However, the gamut of options means that making the right choice for your individual needs can be daunting in its own right. Before purchasing transcription software, PC Magazine suggests considering the following criteria:

  • price
  • type of transcription service (manual or automatic speech recognition are the most common)
  • features (such as the ease of pausing, rewinding, editing, and revising)
  • turnaround time (or how long it will take to have a finished document)

3. Obtain permission to record the call.

Start your interview by getting the consent of your interview subject to record the conversation. While federal law permits the recording of telephone conversations with one-party consent, it is wise to get the blessing of the person you are interviewing before you begin.

4. Find a quiet spot.

While it’s impossible to completely control your environment – fire trucks racing by and barking dogs are just a fact of life – do your best to identify a quiet spot to conduct your interview. Mumbling and muffled words will happen in every interview. However, it is much easier for interviewers to decipher recordings if the background is free of music, conversation, or traffic sounds.

Carpeted rooms are typically quieter than rooms with wood or tile floors. Sitting opposite a window rather than right next to one will help reduce street noise. Turn off heaters, fans, and air conditioners, if possible, to reduce the hum in the background. Silence notifications from your computer and cell phone before you begin the call.

5. Note Critical Points in the Conversation

During the conversation, get in the habit of time stamping, or noting where in the recording critical points are being made. Unless you are writing a full transcript of the conversation, or a Q&A piece, often you only need a few points. Noting where in the interview these moments occurred will allow you to quickly access that information.

Most transcription software will do this automatically. However, if you are transcribing an interview manually, you might jot down the time during the recording that important information appears.

6. Choose an Interview Transcription Format

Before you begin to transcribe an interview, decide on the best format. This will depend largely on how the information is being used. Are you transcribing the full conversation? Or, are there stand-alone points that you seek to gather from a source? This is critical to assess before you begin.

Also, choosing to cut out all of the speech filler that populates normal conversation – think “um” and “ah” – will both save time and make the results of your transcription clearer and easier to read.

However, in some instances, the transcriptionist might also want to record howcertain phrases were delivered by the participant for context. This is particularly useful if your subject is delivering comments ironically or sarcastically, for example. While this approach will make your turnaround time longer, it might be particularly useful to those transcribing videos who must capture the action that was occurring during the interview.

7. Give yourself plenty of time.

Most skilled transcribers report being able to type up 10 to 15 minutes of recorded material in about an hour – or three to five minutes of typing per minute of recorded conversation. For novice transcribers, this could take far longer. Therefore, understanding the real time commitment of interview transcription is critical. Allot at least four times the length of the interview time for transcription. In other words, if your interview lasted an hour, set aside at least four hours for the interview transcription process.

Transcription Software or Transcription Services: Which Should You Use?

There are a bevy of transcription options today, so once you’ve identified your needs, you’ll have to choose between AI-based transcription software and a transcription service that uses a professional human transcriber to convert your audio to text. Let’s look at the differences:

Professional Transcription Services:


  • Most professional transcription services promise up to 99 percent accuracy.

  • Depending on the terms of service, professional transcription services often can turn jobs around quickly. For example, Rev is one highly-rated transcription service that touts an average turnaround time of 12 hours for audio files under 30 minutes long with good quality audio.


  • The definition of “accuracy” varies from service to service. You’ll need to map out whether accuracy means recording every repetition, cough, or “um” uttered during a conversation, or if it means a solid summary of your data.

  • Professional transcription services can be pricey so consider your budget when choosing this option. Most transcription services typicallychargebetween $1.00 to $2.00 per minute of audio.

AI-based Transcription Software:


  • Aside from reducing the amount of time it takes to manually transcribe audio to text, transcription software eliminates the back-and-forth and the administrative headaches attached to using a transcription service provider.

  • Automated transcription software has a wide variety of features, including voice recognition, integrations with other software, and timestamping that allows you to click on a word to jump to the exact point in the audio file when it was spoken. We recommend reading usabilityratings before choosing a provider.


  • Time is money. While transcription software significantly cuts down on the length of time it takes to convert audio to text, it still requires some labor. Consider your resources and timeline when choosing this option.
  • AI-based transcription software can be tripped up by background noise, technical jargon, and accents. If any of those are present in your recording, we recommend using a professional transcription service that employs human transcriptionists instead.

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