5 crucial tips for interviewers

By Kevin Yanik, Managing Editor

This is part two of a two-part series on interviews. The first part of this series covers preparing to be interviewed, and the second part focuses on conducting a thorough interview.


iStock_interviewsInterviewing sources and job candidates is a regular part of my job as a journalist and a magazine editor at North Coast Media.

Conducting an interview may seem simple. You ask questions and receive answers. But the gig isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Getting the answers you seek often requires a thoughtful strategy, whether you’re interviewing a source for a news article or a candidate for a job opening. Below are five considerations to keep in mind related to interviews.

1. Do your homework.

Whether you’re interviewing Kim Kardashian or the Queen of England, preparation is a must.

You’re likely in a position to interview a source or a job candidate because you’ve advanced to a point in your career in which you’ve been entrusted with that particular responsibility. Still, just because you’re in a position of “power” doesn’t mean you can approach an interview blindly.

Preparing for an interview these days is a simple task considering we live in the age of the Internet. Information on a source or a job candidate can be accessed in mere seconds through a Google search. A person’s job history is often available on LinkedIn, and other tidbits can be gathered about a person through a Web search and social media.

Take at least a few minutes to prepare this way before any interview. If you aren’t doing this already, you’ll be surprised how much you can learn about someone in 60 seconds.

2. Ask thoughtful, relevant questions.

You’re more likely to get what you want from a source or a job candidate if you put in the necessary time beforehand and draft relevant questions. Plus, once you’ve established yourself as a knowledgeable source on the subject you plan to discuss, you’ll position yourself to gain the trust of the interviewee if trust wasn’t previously established.

Also, don’t ask cookie-cutter questions. Personalize questions as much as you can because everyone brings a unique perspective to interviews. Use your research to develop these questions.

3. Be prepared to adapt.

After all the work you’ve done preparing questions for your interviewee, one or more of these questions might not apply. Don’t fret. Just listen to what the interviewee says and be prepared to ask questions on the fly.

Your prepared questions should really be a loose guide for how an interview plays out anyway. It’s important to have questions prepared in case you hit a wall. Still, an interviewee will likely reveal a tidbit that surprises you – something that opens a door for another totally worthwhile discussion during the interview.

As the interviewer, be prepared to steer the conversation. But don’t be afraid to give a little leeway to the interviewee. You just might take away something you didn’t expect to learn.

4. Be professional yet real.

Whether you’re interviewing somebody for a news story or for an open job position, you’re expected to bring a high level of professionalism to the task. Still, you don’t want to present a false you.
For example, if you don’t quite understand something an interviewee says, ask for clarity. Showing a little vulnerability can further build trust. To me, this shows the interviewee you’re truly interested in what’s being said and that you want to understand the meaning.

On a related note: When circumstances permit, put your questions aside for a moment to get to know the interviewee better. Time may not always permit, of course, and, depending on the type of person you’re interviewing, you may decide it’s not worth briefly getting to know the interviewee on a personal level.

But, based on the research you’ve done, you may be in a position to ask about the city the interviewee is from or a colleague they’ve worked with. These little moments are another opportunity for building trust. They also help to put interviewees at ease if tensions exist, and they can help to build a rapport with the person for future encounters.

5. Follow up when necessary.

Always remember to say thank you. For example, a follow-up email is generally a go-to for me following a phone interview with a story source.

Remember that this source took the time out of his or her busy schedule to spend time with you. To me, the most precious commodity people can invest in another is their time. When people offer you their time, a thank you is always warranted.

Follow-ups are a little different on the job-interviewing front, though. A follow-up thank-you note is more of a must for interviewees, but interviewers should respond after these with a “thank you” and a follow-up of their own.

On the job front, follow-ups that tend to occur are inquiries from interviewees about their status as candidates. Interviewers are probably divided on how to best handle these responses, especially if an interviewee is unlikely to get the job.

I come down on this front simply: be real. You’re not expected to divulge every detail of a candidate search, but you can respectfully inform a candidate that a search is still ongoing or that you’ve moved in a different direction.

At the same time, you can express thanks for a person’s time and for the opportunity to meet them. Rejection isn’t easy to deliver, but remember that you’re dealing with a person – someone who deserves respect and a thoughtful response so long as that person handled himself or herself in an appropriate way.

Kevin Yanik joined North Coast Media in 2012 and has worked in B2B media for more than seven years in various editorial positions. Kevin is a Cleveland native and a 2006 graduate of John Carroll University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Photo: iStock