Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 6, 2011 9:53 PM

9 Ways To A Better Interview

Whether you're looking for a job, hiring people or interviewing people for your Blog or Podcast, the ability to drill down and get the best answers possible is an art form.

Having strong interviewing skills are critical to success. Why? As a Marketer you will have to create stories and you will have to dig deep with your clients and the agencies you work with to get that story out of people. I've had the pleasure of interviewing thousands (yes, thousands) of people over the years. I've also had the pleasure of being interviewed many times. Being on both sides of the recorder over the years has given me a unique perspective into what it takes to create the right atmosphere to get the right answers out of people.

Here are 9 ways to a better interview:

  1. Record it. The price of a digital recorder is under thirty bucks. Record your conversations. Trying to write or type does two things. One, it distracts you from the conversation and the possible opportunity to expand on a thought. Two, it's a distraction to the person being interviewed if they have to slow down for your writing or if they hear the clicking of your keys. This will force their attention away from their own thoughts. One additional tip: try not to hold the recorder in their face. Let it sit on the table and make sure that no blinking lights are going off. Don't create a barrier between you and your subject.
  2. Care about the topic. If you don't care about the topic that will be covered, don't do the interview. The only way to get a great interview is to have a passion for the subject... and not just the subject matter expert. If you don't care, you're audience won't care either.
  3. Know the subject. If you don't know the details of the person you are interviewing (do your research!), then don't bother. If the person wrote a book and you have to ask, "why did you write a book?" it's a clear indication that you have not studied the subject.
  4. Don't follow your questions. Most journalists have a set of questions and they ask them either in the order they came up them or in the way in which they envision writing the article. Don't do this. Know the areas you would like to cover by having bullet points about the topical areas, but know that getting the answer to every question you have is not half as important as really creating something special with your interview. Which leads me to... 
  5. Create a conversation. Question and answers are not a conversation. Jumping from one question to another will not foster a conversation. Lead a conversation with the subject matter expert. If they're going off on a tangent, keep them focused but go down roads in the conversation that weren't on your list of topics to cover.
  6. Go with the flow. Most people being interviewed have been interviewed a lot and they have standard answers or turns of a phrase that work for them. The best interviews are the ones that create a conversation, and this happens when the interviewer (that's you) is able to break away from their preconceived notions of what the conversation should be and run along - in the moment - and go where the conversation takes you. Trust me, the results will surprise and delight you.
  7. Shut-up. The best lines come out of silence. When the interviewee is finished answering one of your questions, sit for a few seconds and don't say anything. This will usually force them to say more. It's a standard journalist trick, but it works wonders. People hate silence and feel the need to fill the void with words. When this happens, the more natural things come out... and that's usually the gold.
  8. Remove yourself. Think about the audience. Too many people giving interviews think that they're important because they get to speak with this special individual. It's a big mistake. Think of yourself as a conduit. What information would your audience love to ask this individual? What would they love to ask this person if they could have dinner with them? Be the voice of the audience. This is how great stories come out... and get told.
  9. Know when to cut it. If the subject is boring or seems uninterested and there's nothing you can do to snap them out of it, cut the interview short. If they're babbling on and on, find your place to break their pace. On top of that, understand your audience and their threshold for content. Doing a great interview is like attending a great party: you never want to be the first person to leave, but you never want to overstay your welcome either.

What would you add to this list? 

By Mitch Joel


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