We’ve all seen it on TV and heard it on the radio – the poor interviewee like a rabbit caught in the headlights, looking like all they want to do is escape, the grand inquisitor repeating asking them to just ‘answer the question’.
You sometimes wonder why anyone ever agrees to be interviewed. But there are good reasons, and there are ways to make sure you are able to take control and do a successful interview.
Working on the content of our introduction to interview skills course has made me think about the kind of advice we’ll be giving to our trainees. The first and probably most important piece of advice is to be prepared.
1. Think in advance about three or four ‘key messages’ that you’d like to get across. Keep these clear and simple and free of jargon. You have to make sure you deliver these no matter what question you are asked.
2. Consider the questions you’re likely to be asked. One way of doing this is to think about what an elderly aunt might ask you, or a group of your friends. Draw up a list of perhaps ten questions, and then work out how you would answer these, remembering to include your key messages and to keep them simple. Be careful not to learn anything off pat or you’ll sound too rehearsed.
3. Aim to be engaging, and draw the interviewer in with your answers. Easy to say, not so easy to do. This is not just down to your personality, again the real key is the all important preparation. Once you know what you want to say, you need to ‘personalise’ your answers. Use language, anecdotes and examples which people can relate to, and which they will remember.
For example, when David Cameron talks about his support for the NHS, he always mentions his personal experiences with his son Ivan, and we can all relate to this – whether or not we approve of him using his family in the political arena.
4. And finally, and most important of all, be enthusiastic. After all, why on earth should anyone care what you’ve got to say if you’re not passionate about it yourself?
So, with a bit of thought and preparation, it is possible to give interviews where you are able to take control and convey your own point of view effectively. How have you got on? I’d be interested to find out your experiences.