Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Interview Challenge: Asking [the Right ] Questions --Cindy Blomquist

I am the girl in the room who will ask questions. Not the pesky kind [in my opinion]. My specialty is asking the questions that penetrate through the fog of confusion. Tough ones that everyone else is too chicken to ask, but are dying to know. I am curious and fearless : two qualities necessary for conducting an interview. Being respectful, professional and courteous are equally important.

Last week, your assignment was to select your interviewee and set your goal for the interview. Most interviews seek to accomplish at least one of these goals:

1. Obtain the interviewee's knowledge about a topic.
2. Obtain the interviewee's opinion and/or feelings about the topic.
3. Feature the interviewee as the subject.

This week you will develop a list of questions that will direct the course of the interview. And by asking the right kind of questions, you will hopefully attain your goal.

The Right Kind of Question

1. Ask Open-ended Questions.

These are the questions that begin with "What," "Why" and "How," or phrases like "Tell me about" or "How did that make you feel." Asking open-ended questions will cause the person to answer with more than a "yes" or "no," drawing out a more well-rounded response. These type of questions tend to be more objective and less leading than closed-ended questions.

Open-ended Questions:
Tell me about your relationship with your Team leader's wife.
How did you decide to live in Tanzania?
Why does this subject bring you to tears?

Closed-ended Questions:
Do you like your Team leader's wife?
How long have you lived in Tanzania?
Is this subject an emotional one for you?

2. Use the technique of repeating a key word or phrase mentioned by the interviewee in drawing out more information : if your interviewee says, "My Team leader's wife is so protective of her husband"--follow up with: "What do you mean, protective?" Or if she says, "This has been a hard year."--you ask: "What has happened that has made it hard?"

3. Keep questions free of your opinion/bias--usually known as a leading question. For example: "Don't you think it is inappropriate for women to wear jeans at a church service?"

4. Avoid adding a statement to your question. For example: "How do you sleep in the jungle? I think it would be hard sleeping with all the animals, reptiles, and bugs creeping around outside your bedroom window," Usually, the person will respond to your statement and not your original question.

5. Keep your questions short and simple. They produce succinct, dramatic, focused responses. It keeps the spotlight on the interviewee and her story. Add these short and simple questions to your question arsenal:

How do you know that?
What makes you say that?
What happened next?
Can you give me an example?
How often does that happen?
What's that like?

What comes next? Great question. Next week, I'll talk about tips and techniques that every good journalist uses to get the best possible interview. Is there someone in your corner of the globe you are curious about, someone you feel has a story that needs to be told? That's the person you should interview... write some open-ended questions this week that will satisfy your curiosity and show that you value the voice of another.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great post!


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