The 5 lessons I learnt interviewing 239 people.


Interviewing was a task that completely daunted me.

I still remember my first one, it was speaking to a guy called Fred who was set to present at a Retrofitting conference. When I heard that Fred was well known for a particular area of façade design and that it was my job to get some content from him.. I Panicked. I went out and bought a pack of highlighters and decided that this was it, make or break time for if this was something I could do.

3 years and 240 interviews down the line it’s become a passion, I’ve been pretty lucky getting to fire questions at Hospital Chiefs, University VCs, Finance CEOs, CMO’s, Government Leaders, EAs and a whole host of techy people.

A few tips matter, no matter who you’re interviewing.

Do your research
Why highlighters? It was apparent from the off that research was going to be key. We’re very lucky to have a host of background research available. Start with the company website, narrow in to the name of the person you’re interviewing – check if they’ve been in the press recently, if they have a blog, an active LinkedIn, a mention on their company newsletter. Prepare.

You don’t need to become a subject matter expert, you just need to know what makes this person unique – What makes them special? Why are you interviewing them In the first place? Use this to prepare your questions.

Why? Quite frankly you don’t want to look like a fool. Also, the key part of any interview is finding the ‘sexy’ angle. You won’t find it if you haven’t researched what’s already out there…

Be nice
Be friendly and approachable. I approach every single interview wanting it to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Over the years I’ve been amazed by the amount of CEO’s and pretty influential leaders that still feel nervous in front of the camera. It’s not just you that feels nervous, and it’s important to put people at ease.

See the interview as ‘a chat’ and communicate that to the person you’re asking the questions to, right from the off.

Why? In addition to it being a much nicer experience for everyone involved, you’ll find people will relax and open up more – telling you the real stories, not the brand approved ones. They will also be more likely to work with you in the future.

Listen
The difference between a Q&A and an interview is huge.

I’ve always sent questions in advance, allowing time for preparation and to instil some ease. However, I understand that by doing this, it means I may end up with responses prepared by the Communications team. That’s why you have to listen rather than just move through the questions and take the answers, listen and ask follow up questions – drill into each answer.

Information you find out during an interview can also benefit wider departments.

Why: Again, it helps you find the angle and ask follow up questions. It also helps to generate future content ideas. Once someone has given you their time to be interviewed – pick their brains, make the most of being with them.

Use a formula
Each interview should be personal, no doubt about it. But there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of a raw framework to your question development – it helps you develop the content following the interview. Mine goes a little something like this:

Overview of Journey

Macro impact

Challenges

Above and beyond

Lesson Learnt

For example, the challenges question may end up being something like:

Change Management was clearly one of the biggest challenges of the project – could you tell me a little about the strategy you had in place and what hurdles you were faced with along the way..

Go the extra mile
It’s the simple things that count here, share a copy of the video – edited and raw footage, add some value to the experience.

Communicate where it’s been used and what the feedback is.

Being interviewed can be a real personal development tool. It will also increase your chances of getting the video shared with new networks. People are generally more than happy to self-promote, exponentially increasing your coverage.

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