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Five Basic Steps to a Successful Interview

May 8, 2008
People love to learn about other people, and interviews are an effective way to accomplish that learning. Successful interviewing is not simple, but there are basic steps you can take to make sure your interviews are successful and that you come up with interesting, useful information about those you interview. Here are five such basic steps, whether you are doing an in-person interview or a remote interview by telephone or email:

1. Prepare as Much as You Can in Advance. This should be obvious, but often it isn't. You should go into the interview knowing as much as you can about the person you are interviewing. Especially, you should know what their likes and dislikes are, what may especially anger or irritate them, and what your audience most wants to know about them. You use this information as a tool to shape the content and flow of the interview. Depending on the type of interview and the preparation time you have, of course, your advanced preparation may be limited. Do the best you can.

2. Establish Rapport With Your Subject. Try, if possible, to meet with your subject prior to the actual interview and show them you are friendly and that you are genuinely interested in them. Part of this step involves putting your subject at ease about the physical layout and surroundings of the interview, i.e., where you will sit or stand, where they will sit or stand. If you are planning to tape or videotape the interview, try to make your subject familiar and at ease with the technology you are using.

3. Control the Flow of the Interview. You are the one doing the interview and you need to move through it using the questions and very brief comments you have prepared ahead of time. Don't let the subject feel they are going to control the interview with a personal agenda when you have objectives you need to accomplish. (Look again at Step 1.) At the same time, be alert for unforeseen or unplanned information that may come up during the interview. Don't miss out on something good because it may be unexpected. Be in control, but be prepared to "go with the flow" if the flow looks good. Your goal is to part with the subject knowing you got what you needed, and to appreciate any bonus that come along.

4. Part on the Friendliest Possible Terms. Make an effort to be courteous and express appreciation for the interview. This will leave the door open for any follow-ups, as well as create good networking opportunities for additional interviews with people your subject might know. Never kill a potential future lead with a bad attitude or ingratitude. Always try to end the interview on good terms.

5. Get All the Spelling Right. Yes, you read that correctly. It is amazing the number of common words and "obvious" names that can be misspelled when you write up the interview. If your subject is well known, this might not be much of an issue. But even well known people have lesser known friends and family members. Don't let spelling those names trip you up. How do you get the names spelled correctly? You ask, of course. Even "famous" people appreciate the professionalism and concern you show by asking to get the spellings correct. Don't let inattention to spelling details ruin your good work.

Successful interviewing and interviews may not be simple, but can be fun. With a little care and attention to these five basic steps, interviews can be well done and professional. Around the world Steven E is known as a highly successful publisher, entrepreneur, speaker, coach, mentor, and best-selling author. The Team Publishers program, that he helped to develop, is the publisher of the Wake UpLive the Life You Love best-selling book series with over 12 million stories in print. Steven E is also featured in the movie Pass it On!
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