This is part one of a two-part series on interviews. This part of this series covers conducting an interview, while the second part covers being interviewed – for both a job and an article.
Interviewing sources is a regular part of my job as a journalist and a magazine editor at LP Gas. Occasionally, the job requires interviewing candidates for job openings, too.
Conducting an interview may seem simple on the surface. You ask questions and receive answers. But the gig honestly isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Getting the answers you seek often requires a thoughtful strategy, whether you’re interviewing a source for a news article or a job prospect. Below are four considerations I keep in mind related to all interviews I conduct. Perhaps you or someone at your retail propane company can put these tactics to use the next time a job comes open.
1. Do your homework.
Whether you’re interviewing your next general manager, a bobtail driver or a general laborer, preparation is a must. Preparing for an interview these days is a simple proposition considering we live in the age of the Internet. Information on a source or a job candidate can be accessed in mere seconds through a Google search. A person’s job history is often available on LinkedIn, and other tidbits can be gathered about a person through a Web search or social media.
Take at least a few minutes to prepare this way before any interview. If you aren’t doing this already, you’ll be surprised how much you can learn about a person in 60 seconds.
2. Be prepared to adapt.
After all the work you’ve done preparing questions for an interviewee, one or more questions might not apply. Don’t fret. Just listen intently and be prepared to ask questions on the fly.
Your prepared questions should really be a loose guide for how an interview plays out anyway. It’s important to have questions prepared in case you hit a wall. Still, an interviewee will likely reveal a tidbit that surprises you – something that opens a door for another totally worthwhile discussion during the interview.
As the interviewer, be prepared to steer the conversation. But don’t be afraid to give a little leeway to the interviewee. You just might take away something you didn’t expect to learn about the person.
3. Be professional yet real.
You’re always expected to bring a high level of professionalism to an interview. Still, you don’t want to present a false you.
For example, if you don’t quite understand something an interviewee says, ask for clarity. Showing a little vulnerability can build trust with the person being interviewed. This can also show the interviewee you’re truly interested in what’s being said and that you want to understand the meaning.
On a related note: When circumstances permit, put your questions aside for a moment to get to know the interviewee better. Time may not always permit, of course, and, depending on the type of person you’re interviewing, you may decide it’s not worth briefly getting to know the interviewee on a personal level.
But, based on the research you’ve done, you may be in a position to ask about the city the interviewee is from or a colleague they’ve worked with. These little moments, while little, are another opportunity to build trust. They also help to put interviewees at ease if tensions exist, and they can help to build a rapport with the person for future encounters.
4. Follow up when necessary.
A follow-up thank-you note is a must in my book for interviewees, but interviewers should respond once interviewees have reached back out with a “thank you” or follow-up of their own.
On the job front, follow-ups that tend to occur are inquiries from interviewees about their status as candidates. Interviewers are probably divided on how to best handle these responses, especially if an interviewee is unlikely to get the job.
I come down on this front simply, and my approach ties back to my third point: be real. You’re not expected to divulge every detail of a candidate search, but you can respectfully inform a candidate that a search is still ongoing or that you’ve moved in a different direction.
At the same time, you can express thanks for a person’s time and for the opportunity to meet them. Rejection isn’t easy to deliver, but remember that you’re dealing with a person – someone who deserves respect and a thoughtful response so long as that person handled himself or herself in an appropriate way.