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14 October 2011

Top tips to put even the most nervous interviewee at ease

Awkward silences, the wringing of hands and a rise in blood pressure are just some of the physical reactions that can be caused by the word ‘interview’.

When faced with what can be perceived as a barrage of questions, many people find that simple vocabulary evades them, while others launch into such long-winded answers that you lose the will to live.

Meeting for interviewOne colleague relayed an experience where a manager he was interviewing was providing very short, very corporate answers to his questions.

He decided to try once more to widen the discussion, only to be told: “I don’t want people to see me as human — I want them to see me as their boss.”

The good news is that this is an extreme example, and most people just need a bit of encouragement or gentle guidance.

So how can you get the best out of an interviewee, whether reluctant or over-eager? Here are some top tips to help you get the information you need.


  • Semantics: The word ‘interview’ can sound quite formal, so try using the word ‘chat’ instead.
  • Be prepared: Send some questions ahead of the interview to give the person time to mull over their answers.
  • Time is of the essence: Establish a time limit upfront to avoid overrunning, and so your interviewee knows what to expect.
  • Only fools rush in: Try to have a casual conversation to begin with, whether it’s about the weather or something in the news, so that they feel comfortable by the time you start asking questions.
  • Flattery will get you everywhere: If the interviewee is providing too much information, politely tell them that, although what they have said is extremely interesting, there won’t be room to feature all of it in the finished article.
  • Have a sense of direction: Know what you want out of the interview. Look for opportunities to politely interrupt the interviewee if they are sticking on one point too long and gently steer them in another direction.
  • Be interested: Given the opportunity, most people appreciate a chance to talk about themselves. Take or fake an interest and your interviewee will appreciate an attentive audience.


The Renegade Writer
Writer’s Digest