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

5 crucial tips for being interviewed

By Allison Barwacz, Digital Media Content Producer

This is part one 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_interviews1. Create a portfolio

Be sure to assemble all of your best work — including your resume, writing samples, references or whatever other materials apply to the position — in a portfolio case. Keeping your best work organized in a portfolio case or binder not only shows your preparedness, but also shows a level of professionalism that’ll impress the employer.

If a journalist is interviewing you for a news article or feature, bring extra relevant materials to the interview, such as photos or important documents. It could save you time in the future and strike up interesting conversation.

2. Research your subject

Whether you’re being interviewed for a job position or an article, it’s imperative you research the company and people interviewing you.

When interviewing for a job position make sure you research the company as much as you can. It’s important to know exactly what the company does, its brand, clients and employees. Gain an understanding of the industries the company represents and of its core values. Employers may ask you specific questions about the company, and knowing those answers shows your commitment to the job and foreshadows a strong work ethic.

When you’re being interviewed for a news article or feature, understanding the subject helps you draw inspiration for what types of answers you might give. For example, if you’re being interviewed for an article in an outdoor magazine, and you’re asked what your favorite hobbies are, you’ll want to focus more on activities like running or biking, rather than watching movies. Although, of course, it’s important to answer the question as thoroughly as possible, even if your answers don’t relate to the question asked. It will help you prepare for the questions you’ll be asked, and it’ll even help ignite natural, comfortable conversation.

3. Prepare questions to ask

In both interview cases be sure to prepare questions to ask the employer or reporter. In the case of interviewing for a job interview, focus on the position you’re offered and your future in the company. Some important questions can include:

  • What kind of experience will I gain in this position?
  • Is there room to move up in the company?
  • How much has the company grown in the past five years?

In the case you’re interviewed for an article, these are some imperative questions to ask:

  • Where will this article be featured?
  • What kind of audience typically reads these articles?
  • How can I help the readers further build an understanding of the article subject?

It also doesn’t hurt to take notes during an interview. Write down the employer or reporter’s answers to these questions to keep for future reference. It’ll force you to listen, rather than let your mind drift off.

4. Stay composed

A lot of people tend to get nervous during interviews. Make sure to take a deep breath to avoid stuttering and nervous ticks, such as shaking your leg or picking at your nails. Maintain eye contact with the subject — it shows professionalism and your ability to take control of the conversation.

Avoid using words like “um” and “actually.” According to an article by Time Inc., “For the experienced listener, ‘actually’ is a dead giveaway of an area that at the least needs to be further investigated, and may point at a deception.”

5. Say thank you

Saying “thank you” for these two types of interviews is a bit different.

When you’re interviewing for a job be sure to either write a handwritten “thank you” note or email to those who interviewed you. (Note: Don’t forget to exchange business cards, or at ask for theirs if you don’t have one!) Be sure to do this either the day of your interview or the day after. The immediacy of the “thank you” helps express your true interest in the position.

When you’re being interviewed for an article, the reporter will typically send you a “thank you” note or email first, in which you can respond politely. If you don’t hear anything from the reporter within the first few days, you can follow up with a “thank you” email.

Allison Barwacz joined North Coast Media in 2014. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating eNewsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites.

Photo: iStock

Make the most of your interview notes

By Kevin Yanik | Managing Editor, LP Gas, Pit & Quarry


As a business media writer, I often find myself poring over pages of transcripts from interviews I’ve done for upcoming stories. The transcripts sometimes stretch 20 pages long, because I make a habit to type every pertinent detail from conversations into my MacBook.

Unfortunately, a 20-page transcript doesn’t easily translate into the 1,500-word feature story you were assigned to prepare for your print magazine. Twenty pages of notes could be molded into a 15,000-word feature, I suppose, but magazines have limited space. And a print magazine’s limitation is where editing comes in.

After completing a story that’s destined for the magazine, I’m inevitably left with morsels of interesting information or memorable quotes – I call them “scraps” – that simply don’t fit into the print version. Having completed an assignment, a number of writers simply toss away their scraps and move on to the next task. But these writers are discarding information they could sprinkle into other content arenas.

Take coverage I recently completed for the October issue of LP Gas, a North Coast Media publication that covers the retail propane industry. A cover story I prepared spans more than 1,600 words. A sidebar that accompanied the cover story is about 400 words, and a related Q&A that published in the magazine is about 1,200 words.

The coverage combined exceeds 3,000 words. That’s beyond the typical word count we’d dedicate to a single subject within the magazine.

Yet, despite the additional coverage, I was left with interview scraps that couldn’t fit into the print magazine. I connected with 11 people for our October coverage – that’s more people than I’d normally source – and several sources weren’t included in print.

The obvious home for content that doesn’t make it into print is the web. In my particular case, I took one of my best phone interviews and molded it into a Q&A with an expert that was promoted within the brand’s e-newsletter. Also, I captured two of my story interviews on camera, so our digital media content editor produced a pair of YouTube videos from those.

I’m still sifting through leftover notes from the assignment, and my plan is to prepare an entry or two for our brand’s blog. Social media is another obvious outlet for leftovers, and I plan to find opportunities to populate those pages as well.

LP Gas also has a monthly section in the magazine dedicated to the topic we covered in the October issue, so there may even be opportunities to position some of my notes there.

The takeaway here is to consider content opportunities beyond your initial assignment. Interview scraps can serve as informative nuggets for readers. Those nuggets will also help to minimize the number of editorial ideas you and your team must develop from scratch.

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