How to Interview: What I Learned after 20 Years of Interviewing People Introduction: How to Interview - What I Learned after 20 Years of Interviewing Interviewing is an art, but one that anyone can learn with practice. As an introvert, and someone who grew up in a culture where she constantly heard that children should be seen and not heard, I have sharpened my listening skills over the years. But expert interviewing is so much more than active listening because you can be a great listener, yet a lousy interviewer. In my over 20 years of interviewing, I have made a lot of mistakes, but I would like to think they have made me a better interviewer. I have been interviewed several times, but I am more accustomed to interviewing people. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest mistakes I made was when I was being interviewed, but the lesson made me a better interviewer. Although this blog post is not about employment interviewing, some of the tips are applicable. A very well-connected person interviewed me once because someone whom she trusted recommended me, but I screwed up the interview because I was speaking too quickly. I squandered a major opportunity, but the interviewer was kind enough to give me feedback. Because she was accustomed to people around her speaking quickly, she hadn’t realized that I was speaking so fast until she was listening to the recording. By that time, I had been interviewing for years, but had not realized that I spoke too quickly. She gave me feedback because she also had to learn how to speak slower to become a more effective interviewer. I was very upset about the wasted opportunity, but being aware of what I was doing wrong was a major lesson and an eye opener for me. I made a big sign, “SPEAK SLOWER” then placed it in a prominent spot, so that every time I was interviewing someone, I would see the sign, which forced me to slow down until it was second nature. Five years later, I remind myself to speak slower before every interview – both when I am interviewing and when I am being interviewed. I hope that by reading about my experiences, you will pick up a tip or two to become a better interviewer. Here are some lessons that I have learned along the way on how to interview!
How to Interview: Tips Conducting Interviews - Tell the interviewee what to expect: At the start of every interview, tell the interviewee what to expect so there are no surprises. When I conduct interviews for my blog, I take a couple of minutes to remind the interviewee
that I will be recording the interview, and explain exactly what to expect during the interview. Recently, I was working on a project for a client, which involved conducting an interview, then crafting a story. Believe or not, the person is not comfortable with technology that most people take for granted, so Skype was not an option. She only has a cell phone, and lives in a country where it is expensive to call a cell phone. I decided the best option for both of us was to buy a prepaid phone card. For those who do not know, the number of minutes on these cards are often not the number of minutes that you actually get. At the start of the phone interview, I explained to the interviewee that I was using a phone card, and in the event that we got cut off, I would immediately call back. It’s good that I did that because the actual minutes I got from the card was half of what it was advertised for. This is the first time that I was in this situation because the people who I interview are usually very comfortable with technology, or have a land line.
How to Interview: Tips Conducting Interviews - Listen more and talk less: When I ask a question, I listen to what the interviewee is saying to me. During the interview, the interviewee is the most important person in my life. She has my undivided attention. I have always liked to listen more than I talk, but making someone feel as if she is the most important person in the world, I learned from Julia Conn Watt. Julia died from cancer of the adrenal in 2003, but every time I visited her, while I was talking, I felt special, like I was the most important person in her world, at that moment in time. And it’s no small feat because Julia was a CEO of a technology company before she was diagnosed with cancer. One of the traits of great leaders is excellent listening skills. I record the interviews – I get permission before I do so – but I also take notes. And I also focus on what the interviewee is telling me so that I can ask follow-up questions if I need to. It’s very important to record interviews because they are a gold mine of quotes that have impact.
How to Interview: Tips Conducting Interviews - Ask the easy questions first: I am not someone who likes surprises, so I usually send interviewees the questions before the interview so they do not feel blindsided. I am not an investigative journalist, therefore there is no reason to put people on the spot. I have been interviewed several times without seeing the questions first because the interviewer wants my first reaction – they want me to be spontaneous. Despite that, I do not feel the need to return the favor to anyone. Surprisingly, although people get the opportunity to see the questions that I intend to ask them, many do not capitalize on the opportunity because they want to be spontaneous in their responses. I like to give people options, and I find that my questions about the five books they would like to take on a desert island, three events that shape their lives, five people they would like to meet and a few more, take thought, and some of interviewees appreciate that. Seeing the questions first, helps some interviewees to be more relaxed during the interview. You want to
make the interviewee feel comfortable, so ask questions that help to build rapport, and those that are easy to answer. Good first questions are “Tell me about yourself” or “Describe a typical day for you.” My disposition while interviewing people seems to make them comfortable because they trust me, and I have been told that I have a calming effect on others.
How to Interview: Tips Conducting Interviews - Ask the right questions: It can be very frustrating when you are not getting the information that you need during the interview. So, prior to the interview, think about the kind of information that you are gathering and which questions will get you what you need. To read more of the article, click How to Interview: What I Learned after 20 Years of Interviewing People!
Published on Nov 18, 2017
In this article you will learn from my experiences of interviewing others over 20 years. I talk about the mistakes I made so you can learn f...