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Asking tough questions in interview

Ask tough questions; put some pressure on the person you are talking to; bring up some heat; and “bang”, you make a good interview.  Is that really a GOOD interview?

Mike, our radio lecturer, taught us some valuable rules for interview:

  • don’t make statement; ask questions;
  • make your questions short;
  • don’t ask double-barrelled questions;
  • be informative naive

Apart from that, he stressed “asking tough questions”, and did a live demo in class by interviewing one of the students. He called it the “bang” moment.

Are interviews really about asking challenging questions?

Who won?

In BBC’s Today program this morning, James Naughtie interviewed Pamela Taylor on the prospect of reduced water bills (click to listen). Pamela is the Chief Executive of Water UK.

At around 02:40, James appeared aggressive, and rudely interrupted Pamela to “question” her. You can even hear him breathing while Pamela was talking. Was he still excited after throwing out a tough question?

Then at around 03:05, he sounded so eager to bring Pamela down and you can almost tell that he was laughing inside.

At 04:43, he tried to convince his listeners that he succeeded in trapping his interviewee by stating the controversy in Pamela’s talking.

Keep on listening, you’ll see that James kept on challenging Pamela all the way till the end of the interview.

What makes a good interview?

Is James’ interview with Pamela a good one?

Not to me, at least. Simple put, I didn’t feel comfortable with the way he treated his interviewee.

Judging from above criteria for good interview, James did a good job, but he appeared to be following the “asking tough questions” rule to an extreme, which made him sound as if he was superior to the person he was talking to.

My reaction to that was “who the hell do you think you are?”

It’s hard to tell what a good interview is, but it’s easy to tell what makes a bad interview–an interview that makes your listeners uncomfortable.

An art

Some classmates said they didn’t like the “aggressive style” either.

I would put it this way:

  • asking tough questions is okay, but they shouldn’t dominate the interview;
  • do not use them at will because they DO NOT make you look or sound smarter;
  • when you do ask tough questions, please be polite. Remember you are not a policeman or policewoman, neither your interviewee a suspect or prisoner.

Asking questions is an art, and it takes time to be an artist.

  1. March 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I believe that the interviewer should ask tough questions (3 out of 10) but then should maintain an air of comfort and friendliness with the interviewee. The interviewer can always leave behind the faults of the candidate everytime he/she asks a new question, without giving a moronic look so that the candidate is helped to hold the nerve. Interview should be a good but eyed conversation. It doesn’t matter if the interviewer rejects the candidates in the end if he/she isn’t good enough.

  2. March 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Saroj :I believe that the interviewer should ask tough questions (3 out of 10) but then should maintain an air of comfort and friendliness with the interviewee. The interviewer can always leave behind the faults of the candidate everytime he/she asks a new question, without giving a moronic look so that the candidate is helped to hold the nerve. Interview should be a good but eyed conversation. It doesn’t matter if the interviewer rejects the candidate in the end if he/she isn’t good enough. http://www.pupilgarage.com

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