Interviews have been a staple of journalism and research for decades with od job mixer, but what is really going on when someone begins to answer questions? This article will take a deep dive into the interview process in an attempt to answer that very question.

An interview can be defined as a back-and-forth conversation between two or more people. Interviews are often used in research and journalism to collect information from an individual about something specific, such as their opinions, recollections, opinions on topics that are relevant to the topic at hand, etc.

1. Let’s start with the basics. 

What are some of the most common interview questions? What does an interviewer ask to gather information about their subject?

Many common questions in an interview will fall into the following categories:

Research Questions – How did you come up with this idea?, Why is your product better than our competitors’, How did you come up with this idea?, etc..  

Questions that are related to research or background. Let’s say a researcher is conducting a study on college students and how they spend their free time. A researcher may ask a student if s/he spends his/her free time doing things like hanging out with friends, watching movies, playing sports, etc., etc. Which would thus fall under the research questions category. Interview Questions about Subject – What do you think about this topic, What was your favorite part of the interview, What does your product do?, etc..  Questions that are related to a person’s opinion or thoughts on a specific topic. Let’s say an interviewer is conducting an interview with someone who just started a new business and operates a small coffee shop down the street from their house. They may ask something like: “What made you decide to start a coffee shop?” “Why did you choose this location?” “What was your favorite part of the interview?”

The list goes on and on..

2. Let’s focus on the process of the interview. 

What are some things to know about the interview process? What can we learn about how an interviewer approaches a subject?

An interviewer has many tools in their arsenal to obtain information from their subject. The most common tools are simple questions and statements (questions like, “How do you feel about your idea?”; “How long have you been working on this idea?”; “Why did you start this business?”). On top of these simple questions and statements, an interviewer may also request documents from the subject (the business owner in our example above is asked for tax documents, profit/loss statements, etc).

There is also the tool of probing. Probing is a technique used to get an answer by posing a question that appears to be too broad or vague. In the example above, the interviewer may say to the coffee shop owner: “Why did you choose this location?” (This question would be too broad and vague and in turn, ask for more information than the subject is willing to give). The interviewer instead can ask something like: “What made you choose this location?” or “Why did you select this location?” (interviewer only wants to know why this particular location was chosen over another one). An interviewer may also use any combination of simple questions, statements and documents.

3. Let’s talk about nonverbal cues during an interview. 

How does an interviewer express themselves during an interview? What visual clues can we detect to better understand the interviewer’s perspective?

There are many ways an interviewer can express their thoughts, opinions and beliefs while they are conducting an interview. The most common way is through body language. Body language includes anything that can be noticed by the eyes, such as facial expressions, hand or arm movements, etc. The purpose of all of these cues is to help the interviewer gather information in a more efficient manner.

4. Now, let’s discuss nonverbal cues during an interview.  

There are many nonverbal cues that an interviewer may give off when gathering information from a subject. The most common ones are nods, smiles and frowns. Nods of the head can be used to express agreement or show understanding to what the subject is saying. If the interviewer is confused about something that the subject said, they may give them a “Huh?” look and then nod their head to show understanding (again, this is just one of many examples). A smile or frown can be used for encouraging the subject to continue on about something and/or provide more detail on their thoughts, opinions and beliefs (again, this is just one example).

5. How does an interviewer lead an interview? 

What are some examples of “leading” a subject during an interview?

Many times, when someone is conducting a conversation with another person, they will use body language to reflect their confidence. An interviewer who wants to feel more confident and therefore make their subject feel more confident will be clear and concise while asking them questions (as opposed to vague or broad questions). An interviewer may also stand up straight and can lean in towards the subject while they are speaking. This signifies that he/she is listening as a true listener would.


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