Have you ever interviewed for a job?
One thing’s for sure.
You know the interviewer is going to ask you a variety of questions.
Those questions, of course, are designed to help the interviewer get a “snapshot” of who you are. The interviewer is purposefully steering the conversation their way– they’re drawing out particular answers from you.
The same concept applies to video interviewing.
Your questions are steering the conversation in the direction you want it to go in. You, too, are capturing a “snapshot” of your guest’s message.
But there’s one huge difference with video
In a job interview, you can’t go back in time to change your answer.
In video, you can. You can also change the order of the questions and answers.
This huge difference is a great advantage for you and your guest interviewee
It’s a great advantage for you because you can re-ask your questions several times.
It’s a great advantage for your guest because they can redo their answer several times.
The pressure is off!
So what makes one interview go smoothly while others seem to struggle?>
Let’s pretend that today is your video interview day. What techniques should you know about that will help you steer your conversation smoothly and purposefully?
Let’s dig into this interviewing process so you’ll know the same techniques the pros use. We’ll start a few moments before you actually begin the session.
What do you talk to your guest about before the interview begins?
Try not to talk too much about what your topic will cover; sometimes that just creates more anxiety for your guest. Keep the conversation light and casual, instead. A few other tips:
- Remind them you’re having a conversation. Also remind them about the purpose of the video and the typical audience profile.
- Test everything! Record video and sound for 15 seconds and play it back.
- Test the audio recorder for transcriptions, too.
Now that you’ve set the stage, grab a chair; you’re ready to roll!
How close should you sit to the interviewee?
A common mistake when interviewing is to sit too far away from your subject. Sitting too far away creates an invisible “barrier” between the two of you.
Here’s how to find the “sweet spot” between you and your interviewee:
- Take two chairs facing each other.
- When sitting, look at your knees.
- Your knees should be about a 12 inches away from your guest.
Closer than 12 inches isn’t necessary. People need their “personal space.” More than 12 inches tends to make the interviewee feel like they’re on stage or being cross-examined– obviously, that’s not a good idea. Your guest should feel as comfortable as having a conversation with a friend in a coffee shop.
Now you’re rolling!
It’s tempting to ask your most important question first. You have your list of questions. Should you start asking the most important questions first? No! I suggest you ask two or three “warm-up” questions first, then dive into your “walk-away” questions. Why should you wait?
No matter how comfortable you or your guest feels at the start of an interview, there’s still some nervousness. Both of you are figuring out the “groove” of the conversation. That takes a few minutes, a few questions, a few answers.
You could ask about how their week has been going so far, what are they doing after the interview or if they have new recent or interesting business opportunities.
Three common interviewing mistakes to avoid
During your interview, it’s easy to focus on what your guest is saying and miss these common errors that can make or break your interview. Watch out for these little but important things:
- Shifting eyes.
- Incomplete answers.
1) Shifting eyes are distracting
When someone on-camera shifts their eyes away from you, it’s very distracting to the viewer. The viewer (subconsciously) is trying to figure out what your guest is looking at. The viewer isn’t focused on your guest; they’re focused on something else. If your guest’s eyes do shift around, gently remind them to keep their eyes focused on you.
2) Incomplete sentences make your editing extremely difficult
Imagine editing this together:
- “Oh, definitely!”
- “For 12 years.”
Phew! Can you imagine trying to make sense out of these answers? You can’t. These answers also sound like answers from closed-ended questions. You already know where closed-ended questions take you– nowhere.
You want to capture complete sentences during an interview
Complete sentences stand independently by themselves; you don’t have to guess what the person is referring to. Let’s take the above incomplete sentences and turn them into complete sentences:
- “Sometimes our sales team taps into a variety of different methods like …”
- “We definitely plan on expanding our research efforts into the high-tech sector in the next year.”
- “Our company has had a single mission for the past 12 years and that has enabled us to … “
See the difference between incomplete and complete sentences?
If you had to edit ten complete sentences, it would be pretty easy. But editing ten incomplete sentences? Ugh. You get the idea.
Each answer your interviewee gives you should be a complete sentence. (Yes, these complete sentences are exactly the same as what your third grade teacher taught you!)
It’s natural to say “Uh-huh,” “Oh, that’s interesting,” “Really?” during a conversation. It’s how you acknowledge the other person. It shows you’re listening and engaged. But during a video interview, it’s better to avoid saying these things.
You want to avoid these small acknowledgements during an interview because your voice will be recorded on your guest’s voice. The viewer will hear your guest speaking and they’ll also hear your “Uh-huh’s,” and “Oh’s.”
Like those shifting eyes, your voice is distracting the viewer; they’re trying to identify the voice.
So how do you acknowledge your guest if you can’t say anything?
Just nod your head.
Nod your head often and keep silent. If necessary, use hand gestures to convey “you’re doing great” or “give me a little more information on that.”
Speaking of silence …
Here’s an amazing interview technique few people ever use
You’ve heard the popular phrase, “Silence is golden,” right? Well, that phrase is popular for a reason: it’s true. Silence can be your best friend during an interview. Here’s why.
Most interviewers rush into their next question as soon as their guest finishes answering a question. They don’t leave a pause or space after the guest finishes. This is a big mistake. Why is it a big mistake? Because after your guest answers a question, there’s often something else they want to say. But they can’t say it because the next question is immediately thrown at them.
Instead of rushing right into the next question after each answer, try this simple technique.
Keep silent for five seconds after an answer
Sometimes, this silent gap acts like a “permission slip” for the interviewee to continue talking. They feel a second wind and they say what they really want to say. It’s like the first time they answer is a bit of a warm-up answer. That silent gap allows them just enough time to think about what else they want to say– which can be more powerful than the first statement.
You might just nod your head slightly, in acknowledgement of what was just said. Or maybe offer a sight smile. But don’t say anything; just be silent. Often times, a person might say more within that silent gap.
But what if your guest freezes on-camera?
What do you do then? What can you say if your guest just can’t speak?
Every once in a blue moon your interviewee might not be able to say anything. And chances are, you won’t know the reason why– it could be anything. What do you do?
Here’s how to “un-freeze” your guest
1) Use a distraction.
2) Create a comfort zone.
1) How do you use distraction to un-freeze your guest?
Take them away from the topic they’re talking about.
Instead, talk about how they got the job. Ask how they got interested in their craft. Ask about their favorite project. These topics may feel more “comfortable” to talk about than the subject you came to discuss. Once you sense the conversation feels fluid and easy-going, then go back to your “walk-away” questions.
2) How do you create a comfort zone?
This idea is based on a true story and happened to me many years ago. You can use this idea anytime: before filming or when you’re initially talking to someone about being on camera.
As usual, I started the interview. My guest started talking. Then– wham!
She stopped talking. Uh, oh. She froze. I couldn’t say anything to get her talking again.
I tried the “distraction” technique.
We started. We stopped.
We started. We stopped.
Every time we started, we stopped!
I finally leaned in a little bit.
I told my guest that I am the person editing their words. I’m the one shaping the final product. She didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. As a matter of fact, I told her, the more she talked, the more editing options I had. The more editing options I had meant it will help me (and her!) shape her message easily and effortlessly.
My idea worked perfectly
I created a “comfort zone.”
Now my guest had the confidence to continue talking freely– without the fear of saying the “wrong” thing. Remember, you can create a “comfort zone” anytime; before filming or during filming.
What have we learned so far?
• Before the interview, engage in “light” conversation.
• Watch out for shifting eyes, incomplete answers and interruptions.
• Silence is golden! Don’t interrupt your guest when they’re talking.
• Use the “distraction” technique if your guest appears nervous.
• Create a comfort zone before the interview so your guest can turn off the “internal editor.”
What’s your next step?
Congratulations! Your interview is “in the can.”
Now it’s time to send your interview off to the transcriber. When the transcription comes back, you can start shaping and editing your message.
Shaping and editing your message is what the next part will show you.
Part three shows you how to eliminate the unnecessary parts of your interview so your message comes shining through clearly.
C’mon, it’s time to pack up your director’s chair and head off to the third part.
Thomas Clifford is an award-winning communications specialist and blogger. Tom’s copywriting simplifies complex business ideas so prospects and customers “get it.”
Clifford spent 25 years producing 500+ films as a branding/marketing documentary producer for Fortune 500’s to non-profits. Tom’s informal, conversational style of interviewing people enabled him to capture jargon-free marketing messages– igniting audiences into action.
Tom has been featured in several books including the new release, “How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.” Clifford also co-authored (with other bloggers) three “Age of Conversation” books and has written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for FastCompany.com.