Encounters with strangers are always unpredictable, sometimes awkward, most of the times stressful. This is especially the case in interviews, where, you, the interviewer find yourself in a unique situation: After doing substantial research on your interviewee, you sit in front of them and you just have one task: ask them questions.
Interviews differ significantly from how we usually interact with people in our everyday lives. The uniqueness of interviews in terms of style and their dynamic, implies that interviews include special rules which it is advised that you follow if you would like to conduct successful interviews.
The Interviews section of The Definite Article presents to you some useful tips on conducting successful and engaging interviews.
Organize the interview well. That means contacting the potential interviewee well ahead of the day you would like to interview them and give them flexibility on the dates you would like to conduct the interview. It is important that you think of the place you would like to conduct the interview at well. If you are interviewing a person with whom you disagree on certain issues and the conversation is likely to get heated, then it would not be a good idea to conduct the interview at their place. Their sense of being ‘at home’ might give them an unfair advantage in your disagreement. In such a case, find a neutral place which will let you conduct the interview free from any external influences.
Of course, at the beginning of the interview, you don’t want to make the interviewee feel uncomfortable in any way. Be polite, courteous, on time, and thank them for the opportunity to interview them. Make them feel at ease by making some small talk or an informal conversation before the interview starts. They will not give you what you want if you come out as hostile to them or if you are just looking for an opportunity to damage their reputation.
Know your interviewee better than you know yourself. They might had been a stranger a few days before the interview, but at the time of the interview you need to have a clear grasp of who they are, their personal lives, their ideas, their strong and weak points. In this way, you are able to focus on the right things during the interview and maybe push them a little to reveal aspects of their lives or expand on ideas you know they hold.
No matter how much research you do beforehand, however, in an interview you have the opportunity to get the fullest picture of a person. And this is because in an interview you have the opportunity to ask the right questions, of course, but also to observe how the interviewee behaves, how they sit, how they talk, how they treat you and other people, how their house or office is decorated. A good interviewer does more than listen. A good interviewer observes.
Try to engage into conversation with the other person. Forget what traditional and orthodox interviews look like and do not just read one question after the other. This ensures that you can ask follow-up questions and tells the other person that you have been listening to what they are saying. If you just read the questions you have on paper in robotic-style interviews then it seems that you are dismissing what they are saying and you are just interested in reaching the end of your list of questions. Instead, let the interview take its natural course.
Conducting an interview is a unique opportunity to have a face-to-face interaction with another person for an extended period of time in which you control and set the rules of the conversation. Following the above advice is crucial in managing to get the most out of your interviewee and having a successful interview.
Angelos Sofocoleus- Interviews Editor