Monday, May 26, 2008

Good Interview Techniques Cross Over to Good Essay and Speech Writing

I’ve been listening to a teleseminar led by Carole Martin – “The Interview Coach.” I particularly admire her motto for interviews: “Leave your modesty at the door and bring your heart to the interview.”

I listened to Carole Martin coach a woman – let’s call her Dorothy – who is a principal of a small K-12 school and is interviewing for a position of a principal of a large high school. Dorothy would give her answers to Martin’s questions, and then Martin would demonstrate better answers to the questions.

And here’s what I was struck with that I had never before considered: The rules of good interviewing are the same as good essay writing and good speech writing. SPECIFICS, SPECIFICS, SPECIFICS. Paint a word picture in the mind of the interviewer, reader or listener.

For example, Dorothy said she is a people person. Then Martin said at least two sentences that used specific words to describe how Dorothy was a people person. The words Martin used created in my mind concrete images rather than the generalizations that Dorothy had used.

Aha! I thought. When I go on and on in my blogs about painting pictures in your college application essays, for example, I’m actually teaching skills that will be very helpful in interviews, whether those interviews are for college admission, an internship or a job.

Here’s my suggestion: For the next week, when you ask people specific questions about themselves, note how they answer. Do they give generalized answers or very specific ones that you can actually visualize? See which answers hold your interest the most.

Then stand in front of a mirror and play both roles: Ask yourself questions and answer those questions. Try to use as concrete language as possible and give very specific examples to illustrate your meaning.

You can find Carole Martin at And you should definitely check out her site if you have any interest in working for the FBI. She coaches candidates for the FBI, and in her teleseminar she gave an example of the generalizations FBI candidates give to the question “Why do you want to work for the FBI?” and then an example of a much more specific answer. I was definitely impressed.

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