The Blog

the writing life: interviewing

as i mentioned the other day, interviewing in a big part of my job and, luckily, one that i really enjoy. but as someone who never went to journalism school and, therefore, never learned the “proper” techniques for conducting an interview, i’ve always second guessed myself: “what do other people do?,” “how could i be better at it? and, of course, “crap, i must be doing this wrong!” So, i felt intrigued, when one of my editors introduced me to a colleague recently with the note that “she’s a really great interviewer.” a few other people — interviewees actually, also mentioned this recently. “you’re really good at what you do cause you’re so easy to talk to,” and “i feel like i just tell you everything.”

wait, what?

one of the reasons i’ve never considered myself proficient at interviewing is that i’m the great interrupter, conducting an interview more like a spirited and lively conversation, batting ideas and thoughts back and forth. i mean that’s good for conversations with friends but not so good for interviewing, right? aren’t interviews supposed to be more sedate with me, the reporter, asking questions, head cocked, notebook in hand, quiet as I listen patiently for the answer?

not according to this article that came to my attention via pocket. originally published by the harvard business review in 2016.

wait, what?

great listeners, which is what interviewing is really all about, do not stay silent. they engage. in fact, these are the qualities that the article noted as heralding great listeners:

  • they ask questions that promote discovery and insight, challenging assumptions in a constructive way
  • they made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them.
  • good listening is a cooperative conversation
  • they made suggestions and considered alternative paths to consider

here’s a bit from the ny times about someone — terry gross — who actually is a great interviewer.

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