Introduction: 7 Tips On How to Conduct Great Interviews
What does it take to conduct great interviews? I have close to 20 years of research experience, and that included interviewing others to gather information. In 20 years, you make a lot of mistakes, and in my situation, I’d like to think that I have learned from them. There are a few lessons that I have learned along the way about what it takes to conduct a great interview that I’d like to share with you.
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7 Tips On How to Conduct Great 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. He has my undivided attention. These days, I record the interviews – I get permission before I do so – so I do not have to worry about taking accurate notes. I focus completely on what the interviewee is telling me.
- Ask the easy questions first: You want to make the interviewee feel comfortable so asks questions that help to build rapport, and those that are easy to answer. A good one is “Tell me about yourself.” I email the questions before the interview so that person can prepare. Most of the time, people do not look at them because they want to be spontaneous in their responses. Some interviewers refuse to send the questions ahead of time for exactly that reason – they want spontaneous responses. I like to give people options, and I find that my questions about the five books they would like to take on a deserted island, three events that shape their lives, five people they would like to meet and a few more take thought, and interviewees appreciate that.
- Be clear and direct: Ask direct questions and if the interviewee doesn’t want to answer, move on. Because I send the questions before the interview, I’ll know in advance if there are questions that the interviewee doesn’t feel comfortable answering.
- Ask for clarification: There are many times in an interview when an interviewee will say something that you do not understand. Do not let it slide, ask for clarification because oftentimes that’s when you get the most important nuggets. For instance, “You mentioned X, could you please explain to me what you meant by that?” Or, “I have never heard that before, can you give me an example?”
- Ask follow-up questions: Over the years, there have been many times during an interview where I had to ask follow-up questions. In some cases, I did not get enough information so I had to probe more, or the interviewee misinterpreted what I was asking, or she touched on something interesting in her response and I wanted to learn more. The key is to listen and pay attention to what she is saying to you.
- Speak slower: Most people speak too quickly, and you miss a lot of what they are saying to you. I have trained myself to speak slower when I am conducting an interview. This is even more important because I have a Jamaican accent, and on top of that, it is no longer “pure” – I have lived in Calgary, New York and now Toronto, which have influenced the way I sound to others.
- Say how long the interview will take: Prior to the interview, let the interviewee know how long the interview will last, and honor that time. I have conducted interviews, and the person took much longer answering the questions than the average interviewee. I do not like to cut people off in the middle of an answer, but what I will do is make a decision to drop some of the questions if I find that I’m running out of time. You can also give the person a time check to let them know where they are at in the interview. Because I ask every interviewee the same questions for The Invisible Mentor interviews, I know which questions I’m prepared to skip. Think about the questions that you are willing to forgo if time doesn’t permit.
Conclusion: 7 Tips On How to Conduct Great Interviews
The ability to conduct great interviews is a skill that each of us should hone, because there will come a time in your life, when an expert has critical information that you need. The quality of your interview also depends on asking intelligent questions, as well as interviewing the right person. Not everyone makes a great interviewee! Please share your thoughts in comment box below.