Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Interview Challenge: Preparing for Your Interview

Never go into an interview situation cold. By adhering to the following tips, you will most likely be warmly received by your interviewee who will graciously open up to your questions, giving you all the information you desire, to write up the hottest interview of the century (even Gaddafi has his preference in who he opens up to--my hero, Christiane Amanpour). Hyperbole aside, through your thoughtful presence and keen intuitive line of questioning you could acquire amazing stories from your next door neighbor--who knew??
Here are 5 Things You can do to Prepare for Your Interview
1. Contact the person you want to interview.
Obvious, I know, but it is how you contact her that will set a successful tone for your eventual meeting. Introduce yourself in a friendly, professional manner, inform her of your request for an interview, and your expectations/goals of getting together. Emailing is OK, but phoning is better--a warm and enthusiastic voice on your end will create a certain amount of trust, or at the least, a willingness to meet with you on her end. In your area of the world, your only option may be to knock on the door and ask. If she agrees, set up the interview with a time and location.
2. Location.
The place you pick is key to creating the right atmosphere for getting your interviewee to open up. Noisy, crowded places kill the feeling of privacy and being heard. Consider locations where your interviewee feels the most relaxed: home, place of work, a park or a place that is relevant to her story.
3. Do your homework and research the person you are going to interview.
Background information shows your subject that you are interested in her life and eliminates the need to use your time discussing facts that can easily be accessed through some quick research. More importantly, the knowledge you acquire will give you an edge in your ability to shift any line of questioning as she begins to share her story.
4. Start thinking and praying about how you want the interview to go.
How do you see the interview going? What will you need to do interpersonally to connect with your interviewee? Immerse yourself in your subject's life; spend time getting to know her before the interview commences. Cultivate a deep curiosity about this person and the subject you are writing about.
Contemplate your goals: how will you structure your questioning to achieve a good outcome? Make a list of questions and practice asking them out loud: are they simple and easy to remember or long, drawn-out ramblings? Think about how you will write this up post-interview: Will you need to pay attention to details of your surroundings and your subject to augment your essay style article? Or will you need to keep track of your questions to accurately compose a Q & A type write-up?
5. Watch and learn from the pros.
Find someone you admire and learn from watching them do their craft. As you know, I love to watch Christiane Amanpour in action; her style and manner gets her all the best interviews with the toughest world leaders. I also admire Charlie Rose and his across-the-table interview style. Katie Couric makes me feel uneasy--not a fan. I think Bob Costas is great at making sports figures interesting and multidimensional. And I had an inkling when I first saw Oprah interview a guest that she was going to be special...she deeply moved not only the guest to tears but me as well with her line of questioning.
I hope you are beginning to feel empowered to ask a profound question with the hopes of getting an amazing answer. However, it's really the idea of cultivating a curiosity about the people around you that set this "challenge" in motion. Every life has a story. And the best stories are about the journeys people live. You are in a key position globally to start telling these compelling stories by asking a few simple questions, listening well to the responses and telling us all what you have discovered. When you take the time to prepare for your interview, you will be conveying an attitude that reveals that you are worthy to hold their stories in your hands.
Next week: The Interview.

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