By Emily Hecker
Journalists never can tell when they’ll get an opportunity to practice their interviewing skills. Recently, I started work at D.O.G. Phonathon and discovered a new place to hone my interviewing abilities.
Phonathon callers ring-up alumni and plead for contributions. Before we reach the pleading stage, there is the ‘rapport’ step (so the alumni don’t see the pleading coming). This step is the almighty place for journalists to squeal with delight, because they will be practicing phone interviews.
Phonathon management would slap my wrists for using the term ‘interview’ in place of ‘rapport.’ They insist it be called a conversation rather than an interview. Whatever euphemism is used for it, the rapport phase is essentially an interview.
We begin by asking the alumnus or alumna about his or her Drake experience. A reply is offered. We, the callers, must then produce a follow-up question. Generating good follow-up questions is an art journalists seek to master.
Perhaps your prospect/interviewee ends his or her response with, “And I just loved my professional fraternity.” What would your follow-up question be?
Would it be:
A) That’s great. So, do you like the Twilight series?
B) That’s wonderful. Tell me about the fraternity. Which one was it?
If you selected option A, may the Phonathon and journalism gods smite you. If you correctly chose B, you must know a thing or two about interviewing.
Decent follow-up questions build on something the prospect/interviewee has just said. It shows that you are listening and engaged. It also lulls them into a false sense of security before bam! You’ve just nailed them with your hard-hitting question about scandal or monetary contributions to the school.
There’s always a purpose for an interview. Whether that purpose is to gain information or money, your ability to engage the subject is what determines the interview’s success.
Practice does make perfect when it comes to interviewing. So, how and where have you practiced your interviewing skills?