Interviewing advice

Conducting interviews are a standard part of my work. I do them all of the time. I love interviewing people, and I use interviews as a way to get to know people and build trust. There are lots of places interviews have gone, and I have been told so many incredible stories (and lots of things not many other people have been told). Doing interviews is one of the things I love best about my job.

Some notes on interviewing:

  • Doing an interview is so much like an improvisation- I have to follow my gut and also the lead of the person I am interviewing. And it means listening at my best.
  • It is important to look interested. To be and act curious. I encourage folks to keep talking by showing that I want to hear more. (I don’t look at my watch, look away or act bored, etc., etc.)
  • I usually have interviewed the person numerous times informally—out on route, in the truck or just working alongside each other. So before I sit down and do a more formal recorded interview I have a sense of what to what ask and where to head.  
  • I don’t interrupt much at all. Sometime I might have to move things along if the person needs to be drawn out a little to continue. But I try to let the person talk uninterrupted if I can. 
  • Before doing a more formal, recorded interview (which I usually record either on my iphone or on a higher quality audio recording device), I ask permission to record the interview and I explain that because the interview is being recorded I won’t talk much so so my voice isn’t recorded. But again I work hard to look interested. I nod a lot!
  • In general, I rely on open ended questions which don’t lead the person a certain way. Again, I am digging around to hear this person’s particular story- and everyone has a lot to tell about that.

Specific Questions

  • Usually I start with “how long have you been at this job?” I also ask “how did you start working here?” Basically, I am trying to understand just how this person ended up working here now. 
  • I always ask these questions:
    • What is the best thing about this job? (or tell me what you love about your job?)
    • What is the hardest thing about your work?
    • Tell me one thing you wish the public knew about you and this work
    • If there was something you could change, what would it be?
    • How long did it take you to learn….?
  • I often ask about childhood and growing up (which is part of me digging around to get a sense of why this person is here at this job right now).
  • People who do things for a long time (like for an entire career) have compelling reasons why. I promise. Try to get to that reason…which often comes down to what she/he loves about this job and work.
  • I will return to the benign or good things if I need to…asking “what do you like about this?”, “what will you miss when you retire or leave here?”

It is about making the dance, too.

  • Ultimately I know that people have love for their work in someway…and I am trying to give the folks I talk with a chance to reflect on that. That also helps me know what to show in the dance I am making with them. What should the public know about this person? My interviews with folks help me answer that question and then point me to how to make a dance that will show and demonstrate just those things.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Love this – thanks Allison!


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