The Art of Interviewing

Photo by Markus Spiske on

This week I’ve been writing a chapter of my second book which includes a basketball game. I knew very little about basketball before this, but I do know an eleven-year-old who is crazy about it. I thought I would interview him.

During my career, I’ve interviewed a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I used to interview people for the Thomas Cook staff magazine. One of my most interesting interviews was with a staff member who had been on the TV show Blind Date, and had spent a weekend abroad with a complete stranger. Funnily enough, she did not find her soul mate on the show, but it was certainly an experience.

I’ve interviewed many subject matter experts to elicit requirements for new business systems and processes. The key thing I’ve taken away from those discussions is that there is always more to learn.

I’ve interviewed very different candidates for a variety of roles. That’s always challenging for me because everyone has something unique to offer. I suspect trying to work out who can best fill the skills gap in an existing team is easier when you are not part of that team.

Research interviews

This was my first interview as an author, and my first interview with a child. It turns out one type of interview is not so dissimilar to another.

There are specific questions you have to ask to find out what you need to know. These questions will either precipitate the necessary information, or at least identify gaps in knowledge which indicate a need for training or an alternative research method. Then there is THE question: the one that gives the interviewee the opportunity to tell you who they are and what matters to them. As they open up, more questions spring to mind, the conversation begins to flow more naturally and a great deal of information can be gained.

Of course, some pieces of information are more useful than others, but nothing is entirely extraneous. Any additional insights can help you achieve a better understanding of the subject and gain empathy with your interviewee.

My basketball interview was successful. I have completed my chapter and enjoyed spending a little time seeing the world from someone else’s perspective. I’ve also dusted off what seems to be an endlessly useful skill.

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