Marshall, in a recent blog post consisting of interviewing tips, explains that while ultimately, you need to ask insightful questions and lead the interview in interesting directions, you’re far more likely to have a good interview if you drop the stiffness and have a real, honest conversation with the person you’re interviewing. This may seem obvious, but he lays it out in a way that makes it really clear and easily to implement:
I, as did every super-novice interviewer except maybe Michael Silverblatt, started out by scripting elaborate sheets of questions ahead of time. This is death. Work from a question sheet, and you kill any chance of organic exchange, of real, vital intellectual back-and-forth. You just tick off the boxes and grind awkwardly forth.
As Jack Paar told Dick Cavett, “Kid, don’t do interviews. That’s clipboards, and David Frost, and what’s your pet peeve and favorite movie. Make it a conversation.” I once thought of this as a dichotomy between two equal and opposite hosting strategies. In the “facilitated speech,” the host’s goal is simply to elicit maximally interesting and detailed responses from the guest, minimizing their own presence. In the “conversation,” the host both contributes and seeks contribution, potentially even mirroring the guest’s role.
Maybe you’re doing an interview or an interpersonal communication project from one of the advanced manuals. Maybe you’ve been stuck in an interview you wish hadn’t happened. Here’s good advice on how to do it right. More at the source.