The Best Interview Tips, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process
Storytelling Communications

The Best Interview Tips: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process

My palms were sweating and my heart raced as I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t about to die. No, I wasn’t preparing to skydive or swim with sharks—I was doing my very first phone interview for an article. To some that may sound crazy, but for introverts like me, it’s an all-too-familiar scenario.

I’ve come a long way since that first call. I’d even go so far as to say that I now look forward to conducting interviews. How’d I make the shift? Read on to learn my secret and the interview tips I’ve picked up along the way.

The Lightbulb

I’ve been labeled shy and quiet my whole life, so it’s no surprise I’ve never been big on conversation—but if there’s one thing I’ve always excelled at, it’s asking questions. When faced with the dreaded silent pause in small talk, my go-to maneuver is to fire off a slew of them. The more the other person in a conversation talks, the less I have to, and the experience becomes much more informative (not to mention enjoyable).

Somewhere into my third or fourth interview, I felt myself start to relax and enjoy hearing the story of a dog who loved diving into pools. That’s when one the most important interview tips I’ve ever discovered hit me: All I was really doing was having a conversation. Better yet, it was my favorite kind, where I could ask all the questions and hear some very interesting answers.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still get a little nervous before interviews, but now it’s nervous excitement instead of dread. As a storyteller, I look forward to discovering new stories so I can share them with others. If I do start to feel jittery, all I have to do is remind myself that it’s just a little small talk.

What I’ve Learned

Much like playing a sport or learning an instrument, the more you practice interviewing, the more you learn. Here are three of the best interview tips I’ve picked up from experience:

  1. Always be prepared. This goes a long way toward an interview that is both successful and comfortable. As soon as you lock in a date, learn as much as you can about the person you’re interviewing and the topic you’re covering. Aside from your subject’s own website, it can be helpful to read other, previously published interviews so you know what’s been covered before, then use that information to come up with something original to ask. Write all your questions down in the order you plan to ask them and keep the list in front of you so you can refer to it as you go along.
  2. They need you as much as you need them. Many times, interview fears are born out of intimidation. You may feel like you’re bothering someone or causing a burden with your laundry list of questions—but more often than not, interviews are a two-way street. You have questions to ask and your subject has a story they want the world to hear. This is especially true of interviews focused on organizations or upcoming events that rely on media coverage. Keep in mind that your subjects may even be more nervous than you, considering they are the ones being quoted.
  3. Break the ice. Always take a few minutes at the beginning of an interview to warm up the conversation. Introduce yourself and make a personal connection to the subject matter if possible. When I interview a pet owner for, for example, I always try to relate our topic to my own pets.

The Earth Won’t Swallow You Whole

If you bomb an interview, it’s not the end of your career. This may seem obvious, but when you’re faced with an embarrassing moment, it can be easy to get down on yourself. Bad interviews happen, no matter how experienced you are—and if your interview goes south, the important thing is that you learn from your mistakes, shake it off, and move forward.

Recently I had a phone interview scheduled that I felt fairly confident I was prepared for—until the interviewee called me an hour early. I scrambled to turn off the television and find my notes, all while fumbling through introductions. Needless to say, it wasn’t my smoothest moment—but it taught me a valuable lesson in preparation. I now set up my work space well in advance so I’m ready for any surprises.

Push past your comfort zone and you’ll be rewarded, not only with great material, but also with personal confidence in your career. Use these interview tips to take your work to new heights when you join Skyword’s community of contributing writers.

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