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How To Interview Essay, Research Paper
How to interview
Interviewing is an art form of intricate discipline that combines preparation and
spontaneity in a potent mix. Like any art form, it s practiced so many different levels,
depending on the innate talent, hard work, and creativity of its performers. At its best,
what really takes place is an inter-view – a mutual process of looking inward( inter
means between ). The success depends on first understanding your own internal views.
The more self-awareness you cultivate, the greater the ease and skill you ll bring to the
interview process. The word interview is derived from the French entrevue/entrevoir,
meaning to see one another . The tremendous opportunity available to find out about
yourself through discovering other people, their ideas , and your responses to them can
come from interviewing. Successful interviewing requires a basic foundation, advanced
research, negotiating a interview, preparation, and recording.
The basic foundation for any interviewer is to be able to communicate and listen.
Communication is a learned process that never really stops once we initiate it.
Communication is also a complex process among differently programmed individuals
using an infinite variety of symbols-language being only one kind of symbol. To
communicate successfully in the interview setting, both parties must be in a state of
readiness, able to share a symbolic system, willing to establish a relationship and
atmosphere that facilitates interaction, capable and willing to listen and to engage in
appropriate feedback behavior, and flexible enough to respond sensitively and with good
judgment to a wide range of inputs (Beach, 1982). Memorizing lists of principals and
reciting them upon demand will not make you a good interviewer. According to Barone
(1995), you must understand them, practice them, be able to adapt them to differing
interviews and interviewees, and refine them to suit your personality, background, and
Listening plays a very big role in building your foundation before interviewing
too. In my opinion, the key to being a good listener is to want to listen, which can require
willpower and discipline. In most cases few people are unwilling to make that effort.
Basically, listening for most of us is waiting for a chance to start talking again. According
to McLaughlin (1950), we all desperately want to be listened to, but what we do is just
primarily talk. In my view, when you listen deeply , your response assists and inspires the
person to speak with more clarity and poise. The simple but demanding act of listening
with total concentration, which includes hearing more than just the person s words,
enables the speaker to concentrate and to reach more deeply for ideas and ways to
express them. One authors believes that people rarely experience the pleasure and
empowerment of being listened to intently, they feel it immediately when it exists, and it
generates excitement and makes them want to connect with the person who is the source
of that employment. The ultimate reward for active listening seems only just: people
reciprocate and listen to you (Richardson, 1965). According to Samovar (1982), if you
find in interviews that you re not taken seriously, improving your listening skills could be
one way of changing that. One other aspect of listening that I would like to bring to your
attention is the need to be silent. Learning aspects of listening in speech class has given
me an understanding of how to understand and be a strong listener. To develop good
listening skills you have to understand and become comfortable with silence. As an
example, Some interviewers , often out of nervousness, cannot restrain themselves from
filling every pause or moment of reflection with the sound of their own voices
(Samovar, 1982, p. 120). The benefit of being silent for me, at appropriate times, the
guest will continue to speak. It s natural for people to pause and think but if you jump in
and cut them off at those crucial times, you re going to stop some important information.
One of the authors believes that the most important thing about interviewing is knowing
when to keep quiet (Barone, 1995). In my experiences of interviewing, I have noticed
that people hate silence, and if somebody answers a question and you can tell they re not
finished, say nothing and they ll start again. Richardson, (1965), believes from his past
experiences that silence makes the person being interviewed to tell the real answer
because people are so scared of silence. As an example, I know, personally, that when
I m talking to someone and there s a long silence, I always feel inclined to jump in and
break that silence (McLaughlin, 1950, p. 6).
Successful interviewing requires one of the hardest parts which is negotiating the
interview. In order to interview someone you have to have a good reason why you want
to interview them. Once you have a reason for interviewing that person or persons, you
have to figure out how you are going to get this person to say it is all right for you to
interview them. According to Richardson (1965), generally people like to be interviewed
because people like to be given attention. Some people don t like to be interviewed
because they feel invaded and do not want to be bothered. Many interviewers use the
phone or a written letter to arrange the interview. The first step is to choose a method of
approach. According to Barone (1995), experiences , most interviews are arranged by
telephone, especially if you re working on a daily deadline, but the value and impact of a
well-written letter should not be underestimated. Some interviewers do not like to use the
phone because they do not like to be rejected and are uncomfortable in convincing
someone to grant an interview. Using the telephone allows easier tracking to the person
by using a telephone book, directories, other journalists, and your friends. One author
stated that he likes to use the phone because it is faster and affords the opportunity to
establish personal contact, either with the targeted guest or the person designated to
handle media inquiries (Beach, 1982). A letter on the other hand offers several
advantages. Some advantages according to McLaughlin (1950) is, it can get you access to
certain people who would be difficult, if not impossible to reach by phone, a letter has a
greater impact than a phone call; it almost demands a reply, sending letters can be a more
gentle means of harassment than a constant slew of phone calls, and a letter allows you to
control the tone and content of your proposal. From my experience you don t always get
a positive response, I tend to use the phone because it is easier and makes the person feel
he or she is on the spot. The last avenue of negotiation can be the ambush interview.
McLaughlin (1950), explains that the ambush interview is used when all negotiations
have failed. Showing up at the house or office, you might have a fighting chance of
persuading the person to consider giving you his time for an interview. From my
experience, this technique usually ends up with the door in your face.
Once you have persuaded the person to let you have an interview, you now have
to prepare for the interview. One of the basic and most important steps in having a
successful interview is research.
There are few worse feelings than the flush of mortification that overcomes you
when your ignorance is exposed during an interview. Apart from the deflating
effect it can have upon your confidence and ability to continue, it can also
diminish your credibility, shift your balance of power, and destroy whatever
degree of intimacy you may have established with the guest. If it s apparent that
you re unprepared or know little about the subject, and interviewee will likely
become irritated, uncooperative or condescending, or will simply attempt to take
control. (McLaughlin, 1950, p. 25)
For me, interviewing with a lot of research allows me to understand a story and ask
intelligent and probing questions; and to let me relax by increasing confidence, which
helps my intuition and instincts to work at their highest capacity. As an example, if
your shun preparation and choose to wing interviews, you might sometimes get by on
curiosity, good listening skills, and acute intuition, but that will only take you so far
(Samovar, 1982, p. 115). I can see no logical argument for knowing little or nothing
about a subject that you re about to discuss with someone who probably knows a great
deal. Without your own sources of information, you re at the mercy of whatever the
interviewee tells you. Expert interviewer (Richardson, 1965) states, research allows you
to offset that imbalance and engage the guest in conservation at a more equal and
stimulating level. I have realized that if you re thoroughly prepared, you ll be more able
to connect with the guest and understand the subject matter on a deeper level. An author
quotes, there s more to developing your instinctive qualities than just doing research,
but the confidence provided by the research will free you to gamble and experiment
more, to break down question and answers and engage in a genuine conversation
(Beach, 1982, p.122).
After gathering and sifting through whatever research is available, you have to
determine what angle you are going to pursue. According to McLaughlin (1950), the
story will need a point of view, a purpose, even if it s as simple as just highlighting the
major findings but it s usually more specific. An example I might use would be to,
concentrate on poverty among native groups , or to compare poverty on a regional basis.
Another example given by an author, if you cover a government budget, one angle could
be an overview of the entire document, another might focus on social programs, another
on the deficit, and so on ( Barone, 1995, p. 112). The more directed you are before you
go in, the better the odds that the interview will succeed. One last point given by
McLaughlin (1950) is, there is no formula for determining angles and the angle is not
cast in stone. If during the interview something unexpected but important comes up, you
may have to abandon your game plan and follow the misdirected one.
Preparing questions is the last step in preparing for the interview. There are
various methods of preparing questions, such as writing them out, memorizing, or just
thinking about them. The variety of methods each has it own unique characteristics,
capabilities, and pitfalls. The interviewer must select the kind of questions and the
sequence best suited to his purpose and objectives. Also, the interviewer may imply more
than one type of sequence in the same interview. According to Richardson (1982), he
likes to map out the questions, key information and his strategies. He tries to imagine
what the guest is thinking about the interview. He doesn t memorize the questions
because he doesn t like to be restricted by a set of questions all in order. There are lots of
different ways of asking questions and the ways you do it may work for you and not for
others. You just have to use the best way that presents your research on the topic and
allows your interviewee to express his opinion.
The last step in succeeding in an interview is the methods of recording. There are
two types of recording: writing it down or tape recording it. The are both disadvantages
and advantages of the two methods. One disadvantage of tape recording expressed by
Beach (1982), is it takes two much time to transcribe when done with the interview. The
advantage of tape recording, though is knowing everything that the person said word for
word instead of paraphrasing what you thought he said which can cause controversy.
According to Richardson (1965), the advantages of taking notes helps you to easily go
back to answers the interviewee might of quoted. Also, the interviewee likes not being
tape recorded because his answer is trapped on the tape and he or she feels trapped. The
disadvantages of taking notes allow for mistakes on quotes and paraphrasing might
change the view of the interviewee. The methods you choose depend on how good you
are at taking notes and how much time you have to review your interview.
Interviewing is essentially about interpersonal relationships, and how we
communicate with each other. While I understood that point on a certain level before I
began this research paper, I came to understand it much more deeply through the
intensive process of researching, speaking, listening, recording and preparing. I believe
the development as interviewers is intricately linked to our development as individuals.
The more we know about ourselves and other people, the more we know about how to
speak and relate to others. The potential for personal growth and development, through
stimulating conversations with fascinating people, is boundless.
Barone, J. (1995). Interviewing art and skill. New York: Allyn and Bacon Publishers.
Beach, M. (1982, June). Interviewing. US News, pp. 122.
McLaughlin, P. (1950). Asking Questions: the art of the media interview. Quebec:
Canadian Cataloguing Publication.
Richardson, S. (1965). Interviewing: its forms and functions. Chicago: Basic Book
Samovar, L. (1982). Interviewing: a communicative approach. New York: Gorsuch
All rights reserved Jens Schriver
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