How To Be A Better Interviewer (Part One)

Media trainers usually coach spokespersons how to become better interviewees. But over the past few years, an increasing number of our clients have asked us to help them become better interviewers.

Some people want to become better interviewers because they moderate panel discussions. Others host podcasts which require them to interview outside experts.

Over the next three days, this blog will help you learn how to become a better interviewer.

There are many effective styles of interviewing: Ted Koppel is known as a tough interrogator, Tim Russert was known for being direct but affable, Charlie Rose is known for being chummy and curious, and James Lipton is known for being well-researched and sycophantic.

Four men, four totally different styles. As I said, there’s more than one effective style of interviewing. For now, build upon your innate personality traits. If you’re naturally warm, be a warm interviewer. If you’re naturally skeptical, play the devil’s advocate.

Regardless of which style of interviewer you become, some traits are common to almost all good interviewers. In this video, former CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric offers some terrific interviewing advice:

Here are five of the most important things Katie Couric teaches you about interviewing in this video:

  1. Interviews aren’t about you. You’re there to serve the audience, not to demonstrate your impressive knowledge.
  2. Ask short questions.
  3. Avoid yes/no (and other dead-end) questions. Ask open-ended questions instead, since they elicit open-ended answers.
  4. Anticipate the interviewee’s likely answers before the interview so you can form smart follow-up questions in advance.
  5. Most importantly, listen. As Ms. Couric said, good interviewers “use questions as a template,” but are willing to veer off in a different direction if the guest says something interesting.

Click here to read part two of this series.