My Methods For Interviewing


I would like to start this blog with a thanks to the folks at cPanel. Special thanks go to Nick, Aaron, and Keelie. Also a shout to Keith and Derek from Ping Zine who joined me at ground zero. If you were not aware I was in Houston for a few days interviewing the one and only Nick Koston. If you do not know the name I am not surprised. Not because he doesn’t warrant fame, if anyone I would say Nick is in my top 3 for individuals who have had the greatest impact on the Internet of all time. Luckily, I found myself in the fortunate position of interviewing.

For this blog I wanted to address how I interview. I will rarely email questions. Honestly, I find emailing questions on par with just quoting sales material. Canned questions give canned responses and I prefer livelier discussion. In fact, most of my interviews are more conversation like. I want to know not just the answers but the reasons, thoughts, and emotions behind them. You can see them in the way someone gestures, facial expressions, the speed in which they talk, and those expressions lead me to my next questions.

It would be far easier for me to simply build an interview form and send it out to everyone I thought was interesting. I could have asked dedicated server provider Superb.net’s CEO, Haralds Jass, softball questions to entice “perfect” responses. But in either case, comes out sounding rehearsed as opposed to something more impromptu.

I often bait my interviewees. I admit it, and although sometimes I feel bad about it, there is sometimes no other way to get the information I want. As a for instance, when interviewing Barbara Koston, it is clear to anyone that she is very proud of her children. But if I just made that observation it really wouldn’t be quotable or even an interview. I can suggest it, but I might end up with a few word answer. Both of these are the exact opposite of what I consider the standard. The standard is find something amazing that your interviewee can say and let them say it… and sometimes you better get the hell out of the way cause they might have a lot to say. So I bait a little. In fact, I baited Barbara about whether she was proud of her son. The question riled Barbara a little and for that I am sorry, but I received the perfect answer and I could ask for none better, so for that I am eternally grateful.

When I first get an interview assignment I do two things: I research the topics involved and I research the person I am interviewing. The process can take several days to several weeks. As a research I ask myself questions, along the lines of what would I want to know. As the research goes on, I look at what has been said and what hasn’t. Can I fill in the gaps? I would certainly hope so.

Most people don’t know this, but I am scared crazy going into an interview. Though you would think I would be use to it by now, I am not. I always wonder if I will end up asking the wrong questions or push too far or not push enough. Will the person I interview understand I am trying to not just fill in the gaps of information on them or their product/service, but also to give them the opportunity to voice details they may not have thought of or didn’t think important?

If life is a journey then so must an interview. I prefer to trace the path of someone through dialog then to merely ask questions. Although I want who I am interviewing to feel at ease, I will delve, I will even make myself look stupid, in order to bring out the details. In the end, it doesn’t matter how I look or how others see me, it’s about presenting my subject in a way that is new and fresh. And hopefully, in such a manner that others will see them as fondly as I see them.

Categories : Features

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