Monday, December 21, 2009

Interviewing Skills

or, Top 10 Reasons to Talk to Cherie Burbach

On Friday, author and blogger Cherie Burbach featured an interview with Yours Truly on her Working Writers and Bloggers blog. (For those truly interested, see "Interview: Ami Hendrickson".)

Cherie is a delightful interviewer. Anyone interested in getting other people to respond to and answer questions would do well to follow her "interview model." This model includes the following 10 Interview Essentials:

1. Know Your Subject -- Cherie and I have never met. To the best of my knowledge, she is not an avid horsewoman. However, she took the time to visit my websites and familiarize herself with what I do. Her questions showed that she had done her homework. Answering them was a joy -- which made it easy for me to put "Respond to Cherie" at the top of my very lengthy To Do list.

2. Find the Joy -- Cherie's enthusiasm for writers and writing shows. It is stamped on every aspect of her blog. She clearly enjoys what she does and it is impossible not to share her enthusiasm.

3. Communicate Clearly -- Cherie's questions were clear, succinct, and to the point. They were topically targeted to keep answers a manageable size and open-ended so as to discourage one-word answers. When the interview was posted, Cherie sent me a personal e-mail letting me know that it was online.

4. Be Prompt -- Not only did Cherie communicate with me clearly, but she did so promptly as well. This promptness kept her well-placed in my in-box and encouraged me to make promptness a virtue on my part, too.

5. Be Personable -- Cherie's communications with me always had a personal touch. I never had the impression that I was just an assignment or a cog in a wheel.

6. Be Professional -- All of Cherie's communications were courteous, concise, and polished. I never felt that I was an also-ran in the mad-dash race of her life.

7. Be Interested -- In all of our correspondence, Cherie appeared genuinely interested in what I was up to and in what I had to say. This is of vital importance in an interview. The interviewer's interest directly affects the interviewee's willingness to open up.

8. Get it Right -- Cherie faithfully posted my responses to her questions. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how rarely it happens. When it does, it makes the interviewee breathe a sigh of relief and consider making you a beneficiary to his or her will...

9. Direct Your Readers -- At the beginning of the posted interview, Cherie singled out a sentence that she particularly favored. This serves the same purpose as a callout in a magazine article -- it directs the reader's attention. However, it also provides feedback of sorts and tells the person interviewed what he or she said that particularly resonated. This can help the person hone or clarify the topic at a later date.

10. Make it Easy -- Everything about working with Cherie was readily accomplished. This not only made it easy to connect with her and respond to her, but it made me happy to do so.

So, for those of you planning an interview with someone in the near future, do yourself and your subject a favor -- take a page from Cherie's playbook and make sure you've got those Top 10 interviewing essentials on your team.

1 comment:

Cherie Burbach said...

Ami, what a wonderful post! I am so happy you enjoyed working with me, and I can definitely return that sentiment. It was a pleasure to see what your answers were, and to chat with you via email.

I liked how you broke down this interview to help others. (Wish I'd have thought of it... sigh... heehee)

I always feel a responsibility to do the best possible interview I can, because it's such a bummer (to put it bluntly) to receive interview questions that have no thought behind them. I look at every interview as a way to get to know a new writer, which in turn helps the readers of my blog. I tell writers that we can all learn from each other, and that is underscored with this post.

(And yes, writers, you are welcome to come over to Working Writers for an interview! Any friend of Ami's is a friend of mine :)