This One Crucial Tip Can Improve Your Interview Skills

Always ask one more question

One of the biggest mistakes many employee communicators make when developing stories and content is not actually interviewing anyone for the piece.

We create content off of PowerPoint decks (I call people who do that, without at least picking up the phone and talking to someone, “Deckheads”).

Or we do “e-mail interviews” which aren’t really interviews at all. They are just information transfers. You don’t get the chance to drill down and explore tangents that could lead to good color, unique insights, and/or a fantastic quote.

You should approach every interview—whether it’s on the phone, face to face, or over Zoom—with a list of questions. But . . . don’t just ask them in order, checking them off one by one. Each question could lead to two or three follow up questions before getting back to the original list. Listen to the responses. Drill down. Look for insights, color, quotes, personality.

And here’s a tip I use when I interview sources for clients:

Ask one more question, and make it personal. Make them open up. Make them get specific. Tap into their emotions and their pride. Some examples of that one final question might be:

  • And how did that make you feel, on a personal level?
  • What did you tell your spouse or kids when you got home that night?
  • Can you give me your best example of that?
  • Did you get feedback from [coworker, client, boss, etc.]? Can you give me a specific example?

These are the kinds of questions that yield big fruit. Here’s an example.

One of our clients for years was Carlson Wagonlit, a business-travel company. Most of their front-line workers are in call centers, dealing with customers. They wanted to do a series of stories recognizing these workers.

So they created a regular feature called, “Who is helping our travelers?” Each one is a little, mini profile. But look at the two examples. The first could have been done via e-mail. Ask a question, get the answer, publish the answer, with a picture. Call it a day:

But look at this second one . . . this is what happens when you ask one more question:

This example is pure content gold! Why? Because the communicator in the second example asked one simple question at the end of the short interview:

“Can you give me an example of one of your most rewarding days on the job?”

And she was rewarded with the answer you see circled above. She made it personal. She made it specific. She tapped into emotion, and pride. All by asking just one more question.

One response to This One Crucial Tip Can Improve Your Interview Skills

  1. Bill Spaniel

    At the end of an interview, I always ask, what is the one question I should have asked you that I didn’t?
    Here’s another question that changed an interview I did early in my career: When can my photographer take a photo of you? I was a cub on a newspaper that always ran a story about nonagenarians celebrating their birthdays. The day I interviewed my first 90-year-old, our photographer was unavailable. So I asked if he could take the photo the next day. His wife said it would be difficult because he was going to renew his driver’s license then! That changed everything! My story was much more interesting because the focus shifted to how an old man renewed his license. And we got photos of him at the license bureau.

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