How to Conduct an In Person Interview

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Top 10 Tips for Conducting an Exceptional Interview—UPDATED 2022!

Ready for your interview prep? Let’s do this.
One of the best ways to create content online is to interview someone—a person who complements you and your brand or someone who fills the holes in it.

Although most of the content is generated by the person you are interviewing, most of the responsibility to fashion an interview worth consuming still lies in your hands—and it’s not just about asking the right questions either.

It’s about genuine interest, flow, vibe, sincerity, concern, digging deeper, defining the unclear, attracting stories, avoiding awkwardness, and being conscious about all of that at the same time.

After conducting hundreds of interviews of my own on the SPI Podcast and on my YouTube channel, and being interviewed on many podcasts and YouTube channels, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to conduct a worth-listening-to interview, one that is captivating and full of content that your audience wants to hear.

Remember Who You’re Serving

Although the interview may help you and your brand while at the same time help the person you are interviewing (by giving them exposure to your audience) your number one priority should be to enlighten your audience—to get answers that are meaningful from the person you’re interviewing that can better serve those who will eventually consume that content.

  1. Understand a little bit about who you’re interviewing first.Sure, you’re conducting an interview to learn more about a person and what they do, but as the interviewer you should know a little bit more than your audience so that you can properly introduce the person and ask the right questions. If you can find an existing interview with the person on another website, that will be helpful too so you can gauge their style and tone, and create questions for that person accordingly.
  2. Confirm the details of the interview with the person you’re interviewing. This is especially important if you’re interviewing someone in a different timezone. Some things to confirm are:
    • Date and time.
    • Method of communication. (Zoom, phone call, smoke signals).
    • Approximate length of interview.
  3. Test your recording equipment! Microphone, audio, and Skype settings.
  4. Prepare a list of questions. See the next tip . . .

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About This Article

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To conduct an in person interview, start by making small talk, like asking the other person how their day is going, to help them feel more comfortable. Then, ask your questions in a natural way, as if you’re having a conversation, to avoid making it seem like you’re interrogating them. As you listen to their answers, nod from time to time to show you’re focused on what they’re saying. When you’re ready to wrap up the interview, try something conversational, like “We’ve covered quite a bit today. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to chat about?” For more advice, including how to prepare flexible, open-ended interview questions, keep reading.

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How to Conduct a Job Interview: Ask the Right Questions
By using the criteria you have decided on, you can form pointed questions that make the most of your time with the candidate. Tom S. Turner, a Vancouver-based independent consultant who designs selection systems, uses a list of about seven to 12 criteria and develops four questions for each factor he is looking for. Two questions are positively worded, meaning they ask the candidate to speak about something he or she did well. One question is negatively worded, meaning it asks the candidate to think about a time when they made a mistake and how they dealt with it. And the last question serves as a backup in case the candidate draws a blank on one of the other questions.

Fact-based or general questions: “How many years did you work at [company x?]
Most interviews include some questions that clarify information listed on the candidate’s resume. Questions that ask about why the candidate wants to pursue a job in a specific field or with your company also fall into this category.

Situational or hypothetical questions: “What would you do if you saw a coworker stealing from the company?”
Asking the candidate what he or she would do if placed in a certain situation is a situational question. “It’s not a bad technique,” Whitaker says, “But a lot of people can answer those questions ‘of course I would do this and I would be nice to everyone,’ and a lot of people get fooled by those.”

Stress questions: “Why would we hire you? You have no experience.”
Stress questions intentionally put the candidate in a stressful situation. The objective of these questions is to learn how the candidate reacts to stressful confrontation, which can be an important success factor for people like police officers and customer service representatives. Asking a question like this, however, can come at the expense of bad rapport. “If that was one of the success factors, being able to tolerate interpersonal confrontation, I would prefer to go after examples in their background by using a behavioral question,” says Turner, who has been hired to help design interview processes for police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. “I very seldom [ask a stress question].”

The theory behind behavioral interviewing is that past performance is an excellent predictor of future performance. Instead of asking general questions, the interviewer asks for specific examples that demonstrate skills. For instance, instead of asking, “Do you have initiative?” the interviewer would ask for an example of a time when the candidate demonstrated initiative. Most behavioral interview questions start with phrases like “tell me about a time” or an adverb such as what, where, why, or when. “In actuality you’re not really asking someone if they have done something,” Whitaker says. “What you’re doing is asking them to explain to you how they have done it. So it’s very, very difficult to exaggerate or fake this interview.”

Another advantage of behavioral interviewing is that because the answers are based on actual past experience, they can be double-checked. This is where the crucial step of checking references comes in. “If you think they’re fudging the answer or fabricating the answer, you can always ask former employers that they’re saying they showed that behavior at whether it was true or not,” Turner says. He also uses references, or as he puts it “the referee,” to get the answers to negative questions (examples of when the candidate made a mistake) if the candidate doesn’t provide them.

Sullivan warns, however, that this technique might be difficult when evaluating people who are from other cultures or have language difficulties. Another challenge is that some people just don’t think well on their feet. This problem, however, can be somewhat circumvented by sharing the factors that are important for the job with the candidate before the interview.

There are some questions you aren’t allowed to ask. These include inquiries about race, weight, religion, citizen status, marital status, children, gender, and disabilities. “If you don’t ask all candidates, it’s probably some sort of discrimination,” Whitaker says. “And if it’s not specific to the job, [in employment law what is known as] a bona fide occupational qualification or BFOQ, in other words if it’s a question that has nothing to do with job requirements, most likely it’s discriminatory.”

Experts suggest that, if possible, more than one person interview each candidate. Essentially, their reasoning is that two heads are better than one. “When you have multiple interviewers, you’re looking for consistency of the answers, you’re looking for trends,” Whitaker says. “If different people ask about the same skills, then they can compare.”