Archive for May, 2013

The best interviewing is like having a great conversation. It’s not over complimentary, gushy or about impressing the person you are interviewing with your knowledge. A successful interview comes from doing good background work, building a set of questions and then engaging your subject to create that genuine conversation. The following points will help you prepare, engage, and end your interview successfully. 

1. It’s not about You.
Even though the goal of an interview to get your questions answered, while you are conducting the interview, the person being interviewed is the star. You are there to “pick” his or her brain, so your goal is to create a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Don’t try to impress by taking up time talking about your skills or background…let the quality and intelligence of your questions do that for you! 

2. Do your homework.
To craft effective questions, you have to start by researching the person’s background, their business, and the industry. You want to ask questions that get answers only the live person in front of you could give. 

3. Develop a strategy and create your questions. The first question you ask will be the most important one because it sets the tone and expectations for all that follows. Begin with the easy questions, the ones that slowly open the door for the more probing or difficult ones.

Talk the persons language but go easy on jargon. Usually jargon heavy questions will elicit jargon heavy responses, leaving you with a bunch of scribbled worthless notes.

4. Focus on making the person comfortable and at ease.
Start out by thanking the person for taking the time to see you. Briefly touch on something that is common ground or an object in their environment. Don’t use up too much time here, transition quickly to the main part, your questions.

Bolster their confidence during the interview, with small, well-placed and sincere compliments. 

5. Ask open-ended questions.
What you wish to achieve is a dialog. What, When, Where, Why, Who, How, elicit sentence replies instead of yes/no answers.

Use close ended (yes or no reply) when you need to confirm or verify something. If you are using them to clarify, start out by putting the onus on yourself: “But I don’t understand. Did you say…?”

6. Control the conversation but do it in a non-threatening manner.

Never become belligerent or demanding. If the person can’t or won’t answer your question, after one gentle probing move on to the next question. Never ever contradict the person or tell them they are wrong. If you know the response they gave you has incorrect information, ask another simple open ended clarifying question to get to the heart of the matter.

Proceed at their pace. Give the person you are interviewing time to respond. If the going is slow don’t interrupt with more questions or act impatient. 

7. Use penetrating questions when you need to drill deeper.
“How do you mean that?” Is a good example. 

8. Don’t lead the person on.
When you’re not clear about what they’re saying, don’t ask: “Do you mean (this)?” That is “leading them on”. Instead ask: “What do you mean by that?” You want to put the ball back into their court! 

9. Silence and other tactics to move the interview along.
Silence can feel uncomfortable, however, sometimes remaining silent after someone has finished speaking is a good tactic in order to encourage them to elaborate on what they were saying.

Listen carefully and take notes. However, be sure to make eye contact when asking your questions. Don’t be so busy taking notes that all they see is your flying fingers and the top of your head.

If the person rambles on, at some point interject, “That’s a great insight but let’s go back to this question and …” . 

10. Conclude the interview with an affirmation
Repeat your understanding of their comments in your own words. Ask if  that is a correct interpretation and ask for any clarifications. Wrap up stating what the information will lead to i.e. another meeting, or that you have the information you sought. Always thank the person for his/her time spent with you.

Finally, unlike Barbara Walters’ hour-long shows, your interview should be no longer than 30 min – take the lead from the person you are interviewing. Also, be aware of your interviewee’s non-verbal cues. You can pick up a lot of secondary information, or realize you need clarification from voice tone, body language, and choice of words used! 

When you’re interviewing, it’s not just about using words in question format. It’s about planning, consideration, and how you conduct yourself throughout the interview.

Right after the Boston Marathon bombing I was amazed at how many different theories floated around. Everyone I spoke to presented me with another view of who was behind it all: “It’s April 15, tax day so it’s a protest against the tax system.” “Someone against gun control wants to make a statement that guns aren’t the only thing that can kill people.” “The 2 brothers didn’t do it (even as the evidence mounted my friend kept saying this) it is just a plot to get someone and make the Boston police look good.” “It has something to do with immigration. After all they were immigrants from Chechnya, a rebellious Russian state, so we NEED to tighten immigration laws.” “It’s the devil at work.”

As you can see all of these assumptions have their root in where the person is coming from, what beliefs they hold. Some, like my friend, hold so tight to a theory that they refuse to relinquish it even when the evidence contradicts them. Most of our assumptions are harmless beliefs that don’t hurt anyone. It’s when our inner dialogue of words lets us create stereotypes to act upon, limits our ability to accept change, blocks our ability to see a destructive truth, that it becomes bad. That is when the power of words has the power to hurt, maim, and distance us from what and who we love.

In the April 28th edition of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, E.J. Dionne Jr. addresses this issue of in his article “Culture of Preconception”. He makes some great points as to how the “hyperpolarization of our moment has sped up the rush to (contradictory) judgments, a practice accelerated by new technologies.” With all this instant access to information, he goes on to say “We have less patience than ever with the often painstaking task of gathering facts.” In today’s society, we are bombarded by words but don’t take the time to assess their meaning. I love his ending: “I wish we were better at remembering three words: Stop and think.”

 “Turn off the power (on your tech devices) and turn on your insight.” Marc Cenedella, president of The Ladders

Want a laugh?  Here are five I found in the Readers Digest! 

Dumb warning labels:

On a baby stroller – “Remove child before folding.”

On a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook on the end – “Harmful if swallowed.”

On a cartridge for a laser printer – “Do not eat toner.”

On a wheel barrow – “Not for highway use.”

And this last one beats them all:

On a carpenter’s electric drill – “This product is not intended for use as a dental drill.”

In honor of Mother’s Day and the wisdom of grandmothers all across the globe:

grandmother wisdom

If there is every a group of people who know how to have fun with language it is boat owners. Check out the clever use of English words to make a statement:


Anchor Management

Latitude Adjustment




Dont Panic (written upsidedown)

Weather or Knot

Seas the Day

Reel Time

“If we remembered every day that we could lose someone at any moment, we would love them fiercely and freely, and without fear – not because there is nothing to lose, but because everything can always be lost.” From The Still Point of the Turning World, by Emily Rapp