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Tips for Conducting Conversational Interviews

By April 18, 2023Innovation
A young woman conducts a conversational interview in a sunny office

One of the best ways to understand people is to talk to them. Whether it’s for a new role, a survey, or meeting new people, we’ve all been interviewed. This post will help you facilitate more effective interviews, both professionally and personally.

To paraphrase one of the best interviewers of our time, Larry King, you need to develop your own interviewing style to feel comfortable. If you feel comfortable, then your interviewee will also feel comfortable. All great interviews come down to people feeling comfortable enough to have a conversation.

Here are some tips to make your next interview more like a conversation.

Before the Interview

  • Be prepared. Do your homework. Research the person you will be talking to. Knowing about this person can help you shape the direction of the interview.
  • Develop your questions. Formulate questions based on what you want to learn. Open-ended questions give people a chance to be more candid and share their feelings. This helps you understand their experience and point of view. Arrange your questions in a flow that starts easily and builds in complexity.
  • Finalize interview logistics. Choose a quiet space with minimal distractions. Ensure there is enough time for the interview. Plan a 30-minute buffer after the interview just in case things run late. Consider asking a partner to attend, so one person can speak and the other can take notes.

During the Interview

  • Balance your professional and personal sides. It is important to be professional, but you also need to be empathetic. Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s feelings, experiences, and concerns.
  • Listen to learn. Give the person your attention when they speak. People are less nervous when they feel someone is listening to them. Don’t interrupt or try to finish their thoughts. Take notes based on what they say.
  • Remain focused. Letting the conversation naturally expand beyond your planned talking points can bring important or unexpected things to light. But steer the conversation back on track if it veers too far off course.
  • Extend courtesy. At the end of the interview, thank the person for their time. Share your contact information in case they have any follow-up questions or concerns.

After the Interview

  • Use your notes. Compare notes with your partner. Add in any context you didn’t write down during the interview.
  • Look for themes. Identify major patterns in the notes. Cluster these patterns into themes. Use the themes to guide your decisions or next steps.

Conducting an interview can be stressful, but if you prepare in advance, it can be more like a conversation. Use these tips as a starting point to help develop your own style, and soon you will be able to interview anybody!

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Lori Radford

Working more than a decade alongside executives at the C-suite level, Lori managed client-centric needs, facilitated all aspects of internal and external communications, aligned business objectives with comprehensive knowledge to achieve maximum operational impact, created ideas and turned them into working solutions despite resource constraints associated with a support role. Advancing through a series of four promotions has led Lori to her current role as an innovation consultant where she is currently responsible for project management and facilitation, instructing groups on design thinking methods and practices to enhance understanding and practical application through workshops, innovation sessions, and conducting and synthesizing design research.