Better Interview Tips from This American Life
“Wow…this is actually fascinating!”

“That interview went really well,” you exclaim, as your camera crew wraps up.  Then you get back to the edit suite and realize that it’s going to a looooong night of cutting and pasting ho-hum segments to make a story.  If only there were an Authenticity Setting in your software to change those canned, corporate-safe answers into compelling soundbites.

Thank goodness for Alex Bloomberg.

Former producer for This American Life and Planet Money, Bloomberg shared his secrets to conducting great interviews in his 40-minute master class, available here. (warning: sound file will begin playing).

The entire thing is worth a listen, but the first 20 minutes are gold for anyone responsible for creating videos/podcasts that employees actually care about.

A few gems:

  • Avoid Yes/No questions.
  • Know when to be quiet so your interviewee keeps talking.
  • Ask questions that elicit an honest emotional reaction or prompt the interviewee to tell a story.
  • To prompt a story response, use statements like:
    • “Tell me about the time when…”
    • “Tell me when you realized…”
    • “Describe the conversation…”
    • “What are the steps that got you from Point A to Point B?”
  • To prompt an emotional response, use statements like:
      • “How did X make you feel?”
      • “If the old you, could see the new you, what would they say?”
      • “You seem very confident about X right now.  Was that always the case?”
      • “Describe the debate you had in your head about X.”

    “What do you make of that?”

Bloomberg knows the connection between a good interview and a great story.  Be sure to check out his interview with Tim Ferriss.