Everyone loves a good interview.  Personally, I am a Star Trek fan who has been to over a dozen Star Trek conventions throughout the United States.  At these conventions, you get up close and personal with legendary television and movie stars that are part of this pop culture world.  I love the reactions of the stars when they get to answer well thought out questions about their career and rolls.  I also love to see when the fans pull a reaction out of a star with a seemingly dumb question.  Questions can bring out the best and the worst of the person asked.

Getting answers is one objective of asking questions.  Another reason for questions is to get to the heart of a person.  Learning what makes a person tick is a fascinating endeavor.  Helping someone discover a part of themselves is another result of asking the right question.  Problems are resolved when the right questions are asked which lead to the underlying reasons for behaviors.

For an interviewer, your audience will be turned off by your poor handling of an interview or enlightened by it, provided you have a good one. For the person you are interviewing, many positive results can be attained.

Communication can be a tricky thing when it comes to interviews.  Many times you get a great interviewee who is eager to share.  Then there are times when you get someone who is terrified.  I’ve seen an interview where no matter how the interviewer phrased a question, including open-ended questions the interviewee gave one to five-word answers.  The audience was not happy and I’m sure it was embarrassing for the interviewer.  All interviews will be different and you have to sort out how you’re going to get the desired results and work around the undesirable ones.

It’s important to have in mind what you want from the questions you ask.  Here are a few things to think about before you prepare your questions.

  • What trigger phrases can I use to keep the topics on point and the interview ending on time?
  • How am I going to connect with the different personalities?
  • Is it possible to build a rapport with the interviewee that transcends between me and our audience?
  • Can this person provide helpful information for my audience?
  • How can I lead the topic so that at the end of the interview everyone is inspired, filled with hope or be led to the next progression of help?

Once you answer these questions, you have a framework for your interview.  It also means you need to find out as much information as you can about the person you are interviewing and the work that they have done.  The best interviewers have a pretty strong idea of what can be delivered by the interviewee because they have a history of results.  When you organize your questions you can do so in a way to draw out what needs to be asked and how it needs to be done.

Can you visualize your interview?  Do you see yourself asking the hard-hitting questions? Are you laughing and having a good time with the person?  Are you being mesmerized by a story being told to you because you had the talent to bring up a fantastic memory?  Is your audience giving you had the interviewee a standing ovation because they have been emotionally moved and inspired?  Are you accepting your Pulitzer Prize for your outstanding article?

Great.  But you have not interviewed them yet so open your eyes and let us look at the person you need to be to get what you want from that interview.

Mindset.  Here is the secret to preparing your mind right before the interview.  Shut up and Listen.  It’s as easy as that but hard to do.  We don’t stop being the person we are just because we have to enter someone else’s world.  But it is very important for you to stop thinking and listen to the answers you are given.  What the person says can lead to secondary questions that can really draw out the heart of the matter.  When people talk, if you let their thoughts flow, they get comfortable and allow you to find open areas into their mind.  Once you see those small opportunities, if you are listening you have the ability to get into someone’s head

Responses.  Don’t get too excited.  Don’t interrupt the person even though you see that gift of knowledge ready to be unleashed.  Be careful not to start talking about how your life experiences relate to what they just said unless it is going to lead you to pull out those jewels of information. Steady your poker face so that you’re not looking as if you want to pounce.  Tom Bilyeu is king of the poker face while he is listening to his interviewee.  I’m always surprised by his next question, and I’m never disappointed.

Rapport building. Empathy is king when building rapport.  To show empathy you need to be emotionally invested in the dialog.  Show this by actively listening to what is being said, nod your head, smile if you can’t laugh with them, and give validation.  You want to build an alliance with the person you are speaking with and it encourages them to share more.

Now let me touch on a subject of interviewing that the audience does not get to see.  Actually, the audience or interviewee should not see in your action or words.  That what should never show is bias.  The truth of the matter is that you may not always like the person that you have to interview.  They may come from a culture that you would rather not have as a neighbor.  They could have political views that you strongly disagree with. They may have morals that you personally abhor.

It will be imperative that you are self-aware. You must know how you affect others around you either by your words, body language or facial expressions.  Do you know how you sound when you’re upset or disgusted? You will want to have these aspects of yourself under control so as not to cause offense or shut down dialog.

Let’s summarize what it takes to ask the questions that get into the heart of a matter and in a person’s mind.  First, you will want to be calm and listen.  Secondly, you will want to build a rapport of friendliness and trust. Lastly, you will want to draw out what you learn by listening, assess the information so that you lead the time spent on your desired result – A great interview.


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