How to Boost Your Interviewing Skills.

In a previous post, Avoid These Three Interviewing Pitfalls, I wrote about the need to go for depth when interviewing your subjects. What was missing from that article were examples of interview dialogue that could help you see the difference between  poor interviews  and good ones. I’ve included two examples here. All the dialogue is made up. One example looks at the problem of jumping off the topic before exploring the subject’s remarks fully. The second example highlights the problem of going into detail that does nothing to advance the story being told. It’s the stories that are interesting. That’s what we want to capture.

Example One:  Jumping off the topic.

Poor

Interviewer: What was it like as a child growing up in a village?

Subject: Oh, we had some good times. Everyone knew everyone else.

Interviewer: That’s wonderful. Tell me about the house you grew up in.

Better

Interviewer: What was it like as a child growing up in a village?

Subject: Oh, we had some good times. Everyone knew everyone else.

Interviewer: What were some of the good times you remember?

Subject: Well I remember in the fall we’d have the fall fair. People would come from all over. It had quite a reputation.

Interviewer: It sounds great. What were some of the things you enjoyed most about the fair?  What is one of your most memorable stories about the fair?

……and so on

Example Two Trivial details don’t add up to depth.

Poor

Interviewer: What was special about your childhood home?

Subject: Oh it was located next to the prettiest little creek. In the summer we’d go swimming and in the winter skating.

Interviewer: What was the name of the creek?

Subject: I think it was called “Crystal Creek”. Not sure though.

Interviewer: Do you think it was named after the clear water?

Subject: Maybe, although it wasn’t too clear by the time it got to our place.

Interviewer: Where did the creek originate?

Subject: Not sure. I think it came out of Lake Clare.

Interviewer: How far was Lake Clare from you?

Subject: Maybe a mile or two.

Better

Interviewer: What was special about your childhood home?

Subject: Oh it was located next to the prettiest little creek. In the summer we’d go swimming and in the winter skating.

Interviewer:
It does sound lovely. What’s one of your most memorable stories about the creek?

Subject: Well I almost drowned!

Interviewer: Really! Tell me more.

Subject: It was in the early winter and the ice wasn’t too thick. My parents had warned me to stay off the ice. But you know kids.

Interviewer: How old were you?

Subject: I think about six.

Interviewer: So what happened?

Subject: It was a bright sunny day and cold. I went down to the creek with my dog. The ice looked pretty thick so I decided to cross to the other side. I got about half way out and bang! I went through the ice! I tried hanging on the edge but I kept slipping away. I was really panicky and started shouting. What really saved me though was that my dog, Spotty, went rushing back to the house. He kept barking and my mom knew something was wrong. She followed him down to the creek. Without wasting any time she found a long branch on the ground and held it out to me to grab on to. She was a strong woman. She gave a great heave and I came sliding out and made my way back to the bank. She was pretty upset.

Interviewer: I bet! Then what happened?

…and so on

Photo by iStockphoto

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2 responses to “How to Boost Your Interviewing Skills.

  1. Timely post, Dan! I am preparing for an interview tomorrow, and love the idea of asking “what was special about your childhood home?” as opposed to “what do you remember about your childhood home?” And yes, nice examples of good interviewing technique. Thank you.

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