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Interviewing for kimep


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  • 1. Interviewing that WorksJohn CouperBusiness ResourceMarch, 2012
  • 2. Why do we interview? To Gather important facts and ideas Learn another perspective Learn as your readers would like to Collect supporting and alternative details Get additional contacts Add a personal view to the story Add credibility and authority Deepen the story with experiences
  • 3. 1. Principles a) Be as specific as your goals and knowledge allow Know when to give up control Give them some freedom… but don’t lose your way Learn all you can but don’t pretend to know more than you do During the interview, write down one-word remindersof questions to ask later If the interviewee tends to talk in generalities, ask forspecifics, and vice-versa; get examples to Clarify Add depth to the story
  • 4. Principles b) Keep questions simple but provocative Put readers’ priorities first, yours second Connect interviewee goals to the first two Know your goals, but be ready to change them Avoid obvious questions (“was that painful?”) Be skeptical not adversarial or completely accepting Ask only for what they really know about For specific information, ask “when” questions: "When did you realize you would need open-heart surgery?"
  • 5. Principles c) Repeat questions Put yourself in your readers’ shoes Get clarification and definition Use the Silent Treatment Be tactful with their emotions Be courteous Be brief Treat the source as a person
  • 6. Principles d) Focus on what is being said, not on your nextquestion Try to make it a conversation Use critical listening skills; be curious Talk as little as possible Listen for what isn’t said Never act embarrassed or judgmental
  • 7. An interview as “Social space” A social opening we offer Ex: questions, silence, inquiring expression,respect Present the article as social space for them Will allow them to reach out to readers Listen very hard, respond well Respectful but with self-respect Show how helping you will also help them
  • 8. 2. The angle: your initial focus Why is an angle important for an interview? To narrow the range of questions To make the interviewee more comfortable To help “pre-write” the story To increase your confidence Sources of good angles Start with what readers and subgroups want A variation of what you saw in another paper What another source suggested Find a new perspective on the topic Something you’ve wondered
  • 9. 3. Preparing a) Most interviews are as good as theirpreparation Choose the person to talk to A preliminary interview of someone else canhelp Doing research will inform questions, suggest followup questions, save time, and impress interviewees.
  • 10. Preparing b) Start from what readers want to know and shouldknow: topics, length, detail, background; talk to readers to learn what they want on the topic Include the specialty of the interviewee Remember this is their passion Work from the latest and most authoritative sources mark facts that seem uncertain, to ask tentatively Start from a fact, turn it into a question Ask colleagues for info you don’t have
  • 11. Preparing c) Get “insurance” or backup questions with more sources and contextual information Useful when one line doesn’t work Try to learn what the source likes to be called; err on the side of respect/formality Have at least 30-40 questions for each hour of interview Have one sheet with background to refer to, but use numbers to connect each to related questions List three angles that could work, in order of priority Have a list of how the interviewee could benefit; use this if they are reluctant or edgy
  • 12. Preparing d) Gather background on topic Be ready for quotes, color, anecdotes, background,information Pre-outline the story, to help develop and focusquestions Plan questions but be ready to change focus Try to learn their interview style e.g., formal/informal, antagonistic/collaborative Imagine yourself with them, feeling calm and confident Review and practice your questions before theinterview so you don’t need to read them during interview meet first with a key source This will help with later sources
  • 13. Preparing e) Try to create a “shape” to thequestions/session Start with a set of related questions, logicalprogression Consider the story’s implications: futureimpact, side concerns look for what is missing/absent/unknown this usually impresses interviewees Always be ready to change/adapt your angle
  • 14. 4. Creating Rapport a) First impressions Smile when you meet, breathe deeply Plan and practice your first lines Keep up eye contact Wait to be asked to sit, but know where you will sit if you can choose; don’t sit directly opposite or too close, beside them An angle of about 90 degrees works well can say “If its OK with you, Id prefer to sit…”(and indicate where)
  • 15. Creating Rapport b) Copy their body language (crossing legs,leaning, etc.) even their speaking pace and tone of voice Try to meet at a place where they can relax But away from their distractions and duties Explain your angle and what you want to know Listen well and respond to what they say Use the word “we” as often as possible Don’t be afraid of showing ignorance But always show curiosity
  • 16. Creating Rapport c) Be sympathetic but never suggest you are on their side they will feel betrayed Find personal connections: from same area,similar interests, etc. (but not toopersonal/presumptuous) Let them feel occasional control e.g. “what would you like to tell me?” Relax but be professional Put yourself in their place, seeing you
  • 17. Creating Rapport d) Be ready with an opener to make a connection, related to what you learned about their success Allow your own personality to come through Wear clothes similar to theirs to show respect if in doubt, dress slightly up Learn the names of their family if appropriate Develop and show genuine interest in the topic if you aren’t, why should they or readers be? Make sure you have a place to put your things
  • 18. Creating Rapport e) Understand and address their priorities Don’t respond defensively to complaints orworries be neutral but open to their points Putting the onus on yourself "Im sorry, but I dont understand"; "Thats not quite clear to me. Do you have anexample?“ Mildly humorous self-deprecation is powerful
  • 19. 5. Organizing questions Why organize? Helps confidence, makes sure to remember, keep you on track, reassures the interviewee, shows authority, respect and preparation, gives you a reason to look away Group questions by topic Write a 1-word index on the left to find quickly Start with easy questions but quickly shift to substantive
  • 20. 6. Kinds of question a) Funnels and tunnel questions Narrowing funnel: generalities to specifics use when you know less, to relax interviewee Gives more control to interviewee Broadening funnel: specifics to generalities use when know more, to engage interviewee Gives more control to you Tunnel: one informative level (use when knowexactly what you need to know on topic)
  • 21. Kinds of question b) Logical: inner process of the story What affects what, and why Chronological Historical, sequential Action/impact The consequences of one thing on another Experiential: recount what it was like A personal account is vivid and relaxes them
  • 22. 7. Asking questions a) Four ways to make questions work: listen and encourage; use silence; make statements requiring confirmation/denial; summarize and move on. Start with easy questions: general or specific “Id like to start by checking how you spell yourname...” Opening questions: Typical day/meeting, etc.; unusual combination,question that is specific but links the main issues, Get key facts early, in case the interview ends early
  • 23. Asking questions b) Remind them of the topic before the firstquestions, gently and diplomatically and never abruptly; make them feel confident Have both social and journalistic questions Choose your time to move to the main topic usually in the first 3 minutes But less if they are very busy or important Rehearse how to bring back to main topic Practice smooth delivery of the first and lastquestions
  • 24. Asking questions c) Ask an unusual question, topic or combination Ask for the contrary view, then ask them to respond Re-ask the same question in a slightly different way Questions that help get the whole story “When did this start? And then? What of the future?” “How would you explain that to a layman?” “Why did it happen that way?” If in doubt, ask the best “W” question Be as specific as possible Work out one question for each subject Practice making your questions brief and clear
  • 25. Asking questions d) Have both general and specific questions Use the one that relaxes the interviewee Always ask questions that lead to elaboration, not “if” or yes/no Save tough questions for near the end open-door questions at the end Ask for documentation and further leads to show you are curious and engaged Avoid leading questions as much as possible Note the setting and their style if appropriate Pick an angle, then be neutral and unpredictive
  • 26. Asking questions e) Plan the wording of key questions carefully consider the implications of words Leading questions are useful when rapport is good 2-part questions: If they are relaxed, they answer the part they want “Echoing”: repeat their statement to get more detail Make your questions suit your interviewee People resist hypothetical questions when they like facts and figures are defensive/pompous/tentative/afraid, Creative people welcome a “what would you do if…?”approach and will freewheel away into fantasy, whichcan make for good copy
  • 27. Asking questions f) Open vs. closed questions Open: encourage elaboration and explanation Closed: get clear, declarative information Show that it matters to you, and make sure it issincere find a way to care Be ready to ask important questions when a relatedtopic comes up so it isn’t artificial Try specific questions then move on to summary or category issues End with “anything else?” questions
  • 28. 8. Followup questions a) Get details with process related questions (“how”) Pose an explanation and have them correct it Sympathetic Noise… "You feel very strongly about that, dont you?" Questions that ask for their approval or interest canbe better than direct Ask not only about that topic, but if know of otherstory that might be good Followups that work: “…don’t you think?” “what evidence do you have for that? “I take it that means ‘yes’”
  • 29. Followup questions b) Amplification: What exactly did the jobinvolve? Could you tell me more, forinstance…” Clarification: “That was the same year?”,or checking on their sense of a key word Leading: useful as long as they don’t force aparticular answer or reflect a strongassumption
  • 30. Followup questions c) Use a four-second pause to make a goodanswer a much better one Look for and note a word or phrase thatwould lead to a good followup Summarise what they have said, restate itand then you can move on. "Did I make myself clear?" is lessconfrontational by putting the focus on thereporter “So what youre saying is…” Now Id like toturn to…” “Lets see if Ive got this right…
  • 31. 9. Probing Flattery: “Someone whos gone as far as youin such a short time is a real inspiration.” pose a similar but hypothetical situation suggest dissatisfaction with nonverbals tell a story float a rumor: “some people say that…” Suggest/guess: “Is a cost of $1 to $2 million a safe estimate?
  • 32. 10. Noticing Watch carefully their responses (and lack of) When people talk, they are less aware of theirbehavior Look for indications of more information Their pauses, looking away, make a face, etc. Notice when they cross their legs or arms, orstart moving their feet This might show discomfort or tension
  • 33. 11. Listening a) Listening is active hearing, imagining and understanding during an interview, listen intently Pick up nonverbals in voice, pauses, change of tone Listening increases rapport and prepares you to get the answers you want Use “listening’ body language use nods, head tilts, leaning forward, smiling, raiseeyebrows for a question Practice nodding to make sure it is “natural” avoid nodding more than twice; notice and use the body language they respond best to
  • 34. Listening b) Use silence to look thoughtful, attentive, encourage elaboration Listen carefully to exact words the interviewee, e.g. their eagerness or reluctance to answer particularquestions, tone or strength of voice, pauses, omissions, what makes them animated, signs of reluctance When their voice drop or slows, the topic may besignificant or the interviewee has reservations Don’t just ask questions, but seek confirmation: “I understand you have a house in Boise”
  • 35. 12. Be responsive Show you are listening and changeexpression to encourage more information Use a variety of nonverbal prompts, like “uh-huh,” “I see”, small looks of surprise andinterest Be ready to be honest if it helps themloosen/open up When they talk too much, “punish” them cut back on the nods, lean back, look away,sigh softly, adopt a posture opposite to theirs
  • 36. 13. Difficult interviewees a) Go in with idea of goals and that you belong there and readersdeserve to know If they put up a barrier Go a different way Say something like “you mean to say that…?” Spark their curiosity with what you have heard Say “you’ve heard” that something happened; this ofteninspires them to correct the facts Invoke authority of someone they want to please Know and mention how the story would help them Strategic flexibility; offer to do the interview several ways gives them sense of choice when really you are getting whatyou want, and have choice of changing to your preferredstyle (make a show of turning off the recorder)
  • 37. Difficult interviewees b) Make questions simple for defensive, skilled and trickyinterviewees. “People make these allegations so maybe you should put therecord straight” “How do you answer what…is saying?” “It looks bad if you dont comment; wed like to print your side.” “Fascinating, but what I really want to know is…” “Wow, really… but first can we get back to…” “Thats a great story. Id like to know much more-but first Idlike to clear up…” “Will you explain why you are not implementing your plannedfactory expansion?” Ascribe contradiction to someone else Preface an attack with praise Treat it lightly by implying the question is not that serious Practice mentally by vivdly imagining strong resistance with a strong, cool response from you
  • 38. Difficult interviewees c) Ask a less-loaded question, then return to the hard one Say “tell me about…” to treat the situation as a story You have to do a story, and want their role clear Ask them to respond to what a previous person hadsaid, or what you already know Make a statement when questions don’t work Be accurate and have/keep documentation, in case they complain later Appeal to their mercy: “How will the readers know if we don’t tell them?” Return another time or two, to catch them in a bettermood
  • 39. Difficult interviewees d) “Id like to play devils advocate and look at what youdid from a different angle. Then the question becomes,‘why did you put your name forward, considering yourtrack record?’” Bring a list or other documentation (e.g. of topics,people, processes) they can see and comment on Keep up light pressure; don’t allow time-wasters Use nonverbals to reward and punish them Ask if there is some aspect they want to talk about then relate that back to what you want
  • 40. 14. After the interview Be prepared to re-interview if needed “Leave the door open” at the end, in case youneed to go back Go over your notes immediately afterwards tofill in gaps and details Ideally, use a recorder and indexing notes Listen back to tape of your interview just tolearn how to improve your techniques After the story runs, maybe contact them fortheir response If you offer to send a copy, make sure you do
  • 41. 15. Practicalities a) Make sure it is the right person! Confirm all details day, date, time, location, phone for changes Create a relationship with office manager, assistant Before the interview, give yourself an extra minute ortwo to collect yourself check what you have and where But never in the interview area Make sure to have all materials needed ahead oftime, and check just before the interview
  • 42. Practicalities b) Have a business card, extra batteries forrecorder Practice talking to and watching people tolearn to read interviewees, understand body language, subtleties ofvoice tone etc. Offer strong, sincere thanks