Thoughts on Interviewing

Talk to me. Photo by Abby Williams.

I like to think of myself as a people person. I will converse with a stranger on public transport as easily as I would with an old friend, and will genuinely enjoy the interaction however brief it may be. I care about people, and I love to create an environment in which they feel at ease to say as much or as little as they want.

Perhaps it is this love of conversation and meaningful connections that sparked my interest in interviewing. But I am only just beginning to recognise the flaw in my understanding: an interview is not the same as a conversation.

Structure and Authenticity

The beauty of conversation is that it has no set course, and that is exactly what I love about it. An interview, however, is intentional. It is carefully structured with questions designed to extract the desired information. I once understood this to be a manipulated discussion, but I’ve since learned to appreciate it as an art.

I realise that it’s a balance between structure and authenticity; to be able to formulate questions and direct the interview to gather details, while providing a space comfortable enough for the talent to open up without feeling forced. Of course, it all depends on the situation, but I feel that this is a balance worth aiming for.

Learning to Listen

Before I even attempt to develop these skills, there is a core lesson I need to learn: listening. I’m quick to break silence, especially if I sense discomfort. I don’t talk incessantly, but I never let a conversation fall flat. Sometimes, however, I forget to fully invest myself in the person I’m talking to.

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

Ernest Hemingway

Listening is necessary for accuracy and understanding, though it also creates room for empathy and trust. I believe these qualities should be fundamental in any journalistic career, so I hope to cultivate them now, while I’m still a student.

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