Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Interview Challenge: Let's Do It

An interview is like having a conversation, with one caveat. “The goal of a conversation is to exchange information; the goal of an interview is to receive information,” says John Sawatsky, Canada’s premier investigative reporter and expert on interviewing.
Sawatsky elaborates with the suggestion of sounding conversational, but being careful not to engage in conversation. Remember, you are the CEO of this meeting. You are there to gain information, so don’t lose control of the “conversation.”
The time has come. The location is set. Your questions are prepared. Fresh batteries are in your recorder. You are ready to sit down with your person of interest and conduct the interview. Take a deep breath, shoot off a quick prayer and remember the following tips.
Conducting a Great Interview: 12 Things You Need to Know
1. Have an interview template: capture all the contact information, job title: “how would you like me to describe you,” interview questions, topics, stated goal.
2. Introduce yourself; be yourself; be enthusiastic.
3. Remind the interviewee why the interview is happening.
4. Decide how you are going to record your interview. Ask permission if you will be using a recording device. Have a back-up system to recording: record it and take notes. Be proficient with your equipment.
5. Begin slowly, start with an easy question to get them talking about themselves. But get to your important questions soon after a rapport has been established just in case the interview is cut short. Ask one question at a time. People find it much easier to tell stories that to give precise answers. Keep the focus if the person starts deviating: “do you have any stories that illustrate that point?” or “how does that relate to...”
6. You should be talking 10-20% of the time. Maintain eye contact; nod gently as they speak to encourage them to continue talking.
7. Don’t interrupt; it upsets the person’s train of thought.
8. Listen hard. A common mistake is to be thinking of the next question while the subject is answering the previous one.
9. Endure awkward silences--sometimes this gives the necessary space for the interviewee to be more forthcoming, especially around sensitive topics. Sit quietly and see what comes next. The interviewee may want to say something important that you were not expecting.
10. Be prepared to improvise and adapt. You want spontaneous answers.
11. Ask your interviewee if there is anything you did not talk about that would be important for readers to know towards the end of the interview. This could invite her to tell something she may have been holding back--this could be her moment to be brave.
12. At the end, always say thank you.
Once the interview is over, immediately take the time to write up your impressions and make sure your quotes are accurate. Look back at your questions and your interviewee’s responses; fill in any gaps that may have happened during the course of your conversation, I mean, interview.
I hope you are going to take the challenge of interviewing someone. Next week, I’ll be practicing my interviewing skills on 100 women coming to the WOTH Furlough Retreat. I’m getting my list of questions and goals ready. Are there any questions you would like me to ask your peers? Let me know and I will.
Next week: Writing up the Interview.

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