At Elite Words, conducting interviews is our bread and butter. From interviewing industrial brands about their latest products to high-level leaders, we are constantly chatting with people so that we can create the perfect content for them. But interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience and they don’t always go to plan. Sometimes you may be so anxious that you forget to ask some important questions, or your interviewee may not be cooperative and will only give you bland one-line responses. This is unfortunately a part of the interviewing process, but it can be mitigated. That’s why we have provided five easy tips to help you conduct the perfect interview.
There are many reasons why everybody should seek to improve their interview skills. From selecting the right employee to improving your confidence and communication skills, improving your interview capabilities can benefit your business and yourself. When you consider your day-to-day life, you’ll find that you’re often conducting interviews without you even realising it. Think about when you’re on a first date, often you’ll be asking a myriad of questions so that you can understand that person and begin a conversation. While this of course isn’t a formal environment, it’s just an example to demonstrate that interviewing isn’t much different from having a regular conversation – it simply has a little bit more structure and formality.
Practice makes perfect so ensuring that you can continually interview people, whether that’s your friends and family or your co-workers, will help you to improve quicker. We’re not saying you need to break the Guinness World Record for the longest interview (which is over 30 hours!), we’re simply suggesting that you attempt to interview people regularly to make it less daunting. Look at Oprah for example, we’re sure that her first interviews weren’t as good as her interviews now. Yet, through her hard work and consistent practice, Oprah is now known for conducting the world’s most-watched television interview ever, when she spoke to Michael Jackson in 1993.
If you want to improve your interviewing skills and gain more confidence, then take a look at our five tips for how to conduct a successful interview!
Just like with anything in life if you want to do something well then you must prepare. From running a marathon to doing well in exams, preparation is a key ingredient for success. Interviewing is the exact same, in fact, you could say it’s the most important part!
Before you interview someone, you must understand who they are, what they do and what they’re interested in. An interviewee can tell if you know nothing about them. Not only does this seem rude but it also can lead to a boring interview that doesn’t give you the necessary information. Everybody has a story to tell and it’s up to you to be able to tell it, so you must be prepared to ask the right questions.
Not only must you know everything about your interviewee you also must know everything about the article and subject. This is particularly important if your interview is centred more on an event or a product, while the person you’re interviewing is important, they’re not necessarily the focus of your writing. Researching, understanding, and analysing the topic of the interview will allow you to create engaging questions that will enable you to write a better article later. The worst feeling is when you finish an interview and attempt to begin writing only to realise you don’t have the information you need.
Preparation is all about understanding exactly what you want to get out of an interview. It enables you to find an angle and subject matter that is engaging, interesting and fulfils the brief even before you begin interviewing the person. People can tell when they’re reading if you’ve conducted a solid interview, so good preparation is a key ingredient for success.
Here are three ways to ensure that you’re well prepared before an interview:
- research the person and topic in extensive detail
- bring your laptop, a pen, a notebook and be prepared to record the interview
- write down 10-15 questions so that you’re prepared to direct the interview in a certain direction and also gain all relevant information.
Create the right questions
You could be the friendliest person that can get anybody talking extensively but unless you have the right questions to ask your interview can become pointless. Think of an interview like a vehicle, it’s what gets you to where you need to go but it isn’t what provides you with the final product. An interview is simply giving you the information you need to write a great article, but it isn’t the article in its entirety. This is an important distinction to make as often interviews can almost feel like an engaging conversation, but they’re actually a way for you to extract the right information. That’s why preparing questions is important.
To continue the analogy of an interview being like a vehicle, the questions are similar to the steering wheel. They are what drives the conversation and gets you to the places you need to go to. This is why they’re so critical. If you don’t prepare strong questions, you can waste time driving to the wrong destination. It’s also crucial that you let your responder know the questions prior, this will ease their nerves and enable them to think of better answers. Here are four things to consider so that you can prepare the perfect interview questions:
- what is the angle of your article?
- what information do you need that you can’t find through research?
- what information can the interviewee provide that is vital for your article?
- what areas do you not understand and can be explained to you by the interviewee?
Another thing to consider is the style of your questions. While for certain aspects of the interview it’s important you ask pointed questions so that you can gain the relevant information about a topic, particularly if it’s about a product or service, it’s also crucial to ask open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are designed to gain the responder’s personal opinion and insights into the subject matter and allow for a longer and more meaningful answer. These questions often begin with “how” or “why” and encourage the responder to provide a large breadth of information. This is especially important if you aren’t entirely certain on the angle of your article, as within these longer responses usually lies a clearer idea of what you can focus on. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence for a little bit and wait for a response, silence usually encourages the responder to give longer answers helping your writing overall!
First impressions matter
Just like most things in life, first impressions are critical. You must ensure that the interviewee’s first impression of you is positive and professional. Nobody’s going to open up to someone that looks like they’re not taking the interview seriously or don’t look credible. Ensuring that you’re on time, dressed appropriately for the environment and occasion, and are acting highly professional and approachable will enable the interview to run much smoother.
How you connect with the person you’re interviewing is integral to how the interview will go. You should form a connection between yourself and them from the minute you meet. This could be through simple things like finding a common interest or by simply being warm and considerate from the beginning. People respond to energy so if you’re in a bad mood or irritated there’s a good chance your responder won’t feel comfortable giving you insightful and in-depth responses.
Start a conversation and see where it leads
Interviews are about extracting information that you need but they’re also an opportunity to get to know somebody and who they are. Occasionally, interviewers can get blinded by the task and forget the person sitting in front of them. Try and avoid this as much as possible. Great interviews are conducted similar to a conversation, where the interviewer creates a space that is welcoming and encourages open communication. Think about celebrity interviews, the best ones aren’t the ones that are focused on the movie or book that’s coming out but the ones where audiences gain a little more insight into the person and what makes them unique.
This is why open-ended questions are so critical to include as a part of your interview. By allowing and encouraging a conversation to occur you can gain more engaging and insightful responses. This is a quick-fire way to make your article stand out from others and also helps to showcase your skills as an interviewer. Articles with a human element to them, ones that showcase the person behind the product or service, will generate greater engagement and more meaningful impressions. Remember, an interview is just a slightly more structured conversation so always encourage an environment where open communication can flourish!
Finish an interview strong and organised
Okay so you’ve spent hours preparing, you’ve finally conducted a successful interview, but now you just need to end it. While we wouldn’t say ending an interview is the hardest part it is a critical area to get right.
Ensure that you’re always remaining courteous and appreciative of the responder’s time. Often, interviewees can be nervous or have given up their spare time for you. You must always acknowledge their efforts, even if they weren’t the most interactive responder. One way to ease their nerves and to be courteous is to always offer to send the final article. This way if they aren’t happy or feel like you may have misinterpreted something they can always alter it with ease. Not only does this make them trust you but it also will help your article in the long run as you always want to write authentically and truthfully.
Another way to end an interview strongly is to build a strong rapport with the interviewee. Ensure you collect their contact details or connect through social media after the interview. Not only will this benefit you in the long run, as you can always ask them any questions if required, but it also means that you are building a database of people that may help you in the future or could lead to greater opportunities. Treating everyone with respect, kindness and enthusiasm is a quick way to grow a strong business network.
Okay, so you should feel comfortable conducting an interview from start to finish now! Remember, practice, practice, practice. The only way you can improve your interview skills is by interviewing a large range of people often. To help you out further here is our checklist for conducting the perfect interview:
- conduct extensive research
- prepare 10-15 questions (reminder: they should be a mix of open-ended and specific questions)
- make a good first impression and create a comfortable environment for the responder
- encourage an insightful conversation
- finish an interview strong by being courteous and obtaining their contact details.
Interviews are critical for the success of your articles and can make or break your marketing strategy. If you’re worried about conducting the perfect interview or aren’t confident in writing a great article then contact Elite Words today! We are a communications service that specialises in copywriting and content strategy. We’re here to help!