Being Interviewed on Interviewing

Today I was interviewed about how to interview people by Jessalyn Coolbaugh, a copywriter friend of Ben Mack’s.

It was her first interview… and she actually did a darn good job of it, especially for someone who is a self-professed extremely shy introvert.

Hey, I’m an introvert too… and I always say that’s not a bad thing for interviewers, because the #1 skill an interviewer needs to have is listening. And introverts make the best listeners because they’re usually focused on other people instead of themselves.

But I was expecting someone beyond shy, based on how she described herself, and yet true to form for most introverts, you would never have known.

Besides the #1 interviewing skill, I shared some of my tricks with her. But the questioning focused a lot around how to get a guest rather than the types of questions to ask, so I never got into my schtick about open-ended neutral questions like I do in my book, Interviewing Unwrapped.

Bottom line in a nutshell? Stick to questions that start with the journalistic 5 W’s — Who, What, Where, When, Why… or the H, How.

I also never got around to telling my conch shell analogy, which is usually something I share when I’m interviewed about interviewing.

It’s not the first time, obviously. Last spring I interviewed 10 of the world’s top online interviewers for Interviewing Unwrapped, because I didn’t want it to be all about me. So the first manual is my instruction guide, and the second manual is the interview transcripts… plus of course the audios come with it too.

But I was the only interviewer interviewing interviewers about interviewing at the time (I know, that’s a tongue twister, but that’s why I love to say it that way!)

Then within two to three weeks, I was interviewed about interviewing five more times… almost like I started a trend.

First it was Joe Rubino for Success Factor 1; then Joshua Shafran for his Two Comma Club coaching CDs; then Shaune Clarke because, like a true interviewer, he just wanted to turn it around; then Jeff Wellman for Lay Off Your Boss; and finally Harris Fellman for his Protege Program.

And I think I shared my conch shell analogy with all of them.

Wondering about the conch shell? Okay, I’ll give it to you.

Ever read The Lord of the Flies? About British school boys who get stranded on an island and slowly turn into savages?

Well, before their society falls apart, they use a conch shell to represent power and communication. During their meetings, only the person holding the conch shell was allowed to speak.

Just like in an interview, only the person with the mic pointing towards their mouth is allowed to speak.

Or — if you’re not using a hand-held mic for your interview — there is a virtual conch shell that dictates who can talk when. Respect the conch and you’ll respect your interviewee… and they’ll respect you.

That means you don’t ask questions or make comments when your guest has the floor… and give them a few moments at the end of the answer to be sure they’re done… and as a result, they won’t try to answer you before you finish speaking either.

You have the conch, you speak — then you give the conch to your guest, and they speak. The interviewer is always in control, and you always decide who has the conch.

In The Lord of the Flies, when the conch shell gets smashed, that signifies the beginning of the end of their civilized society.

Similarly, if you try to talk over your guest, or they interrupt you, your interview will fall apart. Establish the virtual conch shell early to keep control of the reigns.

Keep Unwrapping the Skills of Life!

Heather Vale

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