Secrets of being a good interviewer

As you may know, I originally trained as a journalist. That’s where I first learned interviewing skills. Then I worked as a senior manager of a creative department in the corporate world and had to conduct interviews to recruit staff. These days, I interview the clients of my clients in order to write testimonials etc. This is an extract from my Little Fish Guide to DIY Marketing that you may find useful:

On a management-training course years ago, I was watched on closed circuit TV as I interviewed a candidate for a job. I asked about her current work. She told me she was a shop supervisor. I asked what that entailed. She said, cheerily, “Oh, it’s different every day!” I asked again. She replied, but didn’t elaborate. So I asked what she did yesterday.

At last I got a specific answer: “I got in at 7 o’clock in the morning and set up, then I opened the store. I had to train a new member of staff, then there was a tricky customer to deal with and some stock to unpack and price up. After closing time I did the cashing up and re-did the window display ready for the next day.”

I double-checked: “And was that a typical day?” “Oh yes,” she answered.

I triple-checked. “And is there anything you ever do that’s very different to that?” “No, that’s more or less it,” she confirmed.

By then I understood her current role and responsibilities, and could match that to the skill set I was interviewing for.

Interviewing tips

  • Generate rapport
  • Be endlessly curious and genuinely interested
  • Don’t ask closed questions that can only be answered with one word e.g. Yes or No.
  • Instead, ask open questions such as “Tell me about…”
  • Probe more deeply

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