The Art Of Asking Questions

Interview

According to Wikipedia: "An interview is essentially a structured conversation where one participant asks questions, and the other provides answers. In common parlance, the word "interview" refers to a one-on-one conversation between an interviewer and an interviewee. The interviewer asks questions to which the interviewee responds, usually so information is offered by the interviewee to interviewer -- and that information may be used or provided to other audiences, whether in real time or later. This feature is common to many types of interviews -- a job interview or interview with a witness to an event may have no other audience present at the time, but the answers will be later provided to others in the employment or investigative process."

There are many types of interview, job, journalistic, medical and even educational to name but a few. In essence, an interview is a structured conversation, and the means of which to extract information with questions has evolved into an artform.

 

Structure

When people think of questions they often think of a job interview. Questions like "Tell us a little bit about yourself" or "Where do you see yourself in five years" seem like natural questions. In a sense, we have learned to expect the form of a question to be in a similar manner, the question has to be about what one person wants to know, and the answer has to be on those terms.

It is so natural we have almost learned to expect it from the get go. Inc.com in their article have listed things we all expect to hear in interviews and how to best answer them, and most people seem to think of interviews along the lines of "Interviewer asks X and interviewee responds with Y".

But, as TheWritterPractice said in their article "In an interview, you want to have a conversation, not an interrogation. A good interviewer makes their interviewee comfortable". And here is where things start to get tricky.

Words can be powerful when wielded by someone who knows their secrets, so the first step into learning the art of questioning, or interviewing, we have to begin with the basis, the questions.

Chron in their article on how to form a proper structured interview questionnaire to get specifc information and facts from a potential employee, enhance the quality, validity and honesty of answers given by a job seeker and even reduce bias.

After all: "Questions elicit answers in their likeness; answers rise and fall to the questions they meet" to better quote Krista Tippett.

Conversation

During researching for this article, I mostly found articles that can be summed in two categories. Tips and tricks on how to structure your questions and articles around a more philosophical approach to interviewing.

The first category, is something I was expecting from the get go. In the modern world of "succeed or DIE" culture in business, where political debates and even conversations are focused around using questions to corner, catch off guard or to extract the information you -want- to extract, the means of which to do so have been put down to code. Some examples of those articles are listed above.

The second category caught me a bit off guard. In an interview by quartz at work Krista Tippett mentioned that "If you ask a question that’s interesting to them, they’ll often start thinking out loud in real time. They’re excited and forget they’re being interviewed,” Tippett says. “Maybe they’ll even say something that they haven’t said before—and you have this moment of surprise and discovery". Her form of interviewing is more about setting the subject at ease, and ask questions that would interest them, pique their curiosity and then just have them essentially forget they are being interviewed and just speak.

A swift search later and voila, another article by Articulate in which they give a few awesome tips for writing an interview. Their first step? Choose the right format

Be it a job interview, doing that report on X event for your newspaper or just having a conversation and trying to meet someone new, it is my honest opinion that those articles might help you be, if not a better, a more successful conversationalist.

Final Thoughts

I am by no means claiming to know about interviews or that my opinion carries with it weight on the subject, but from reading all of this, I can't help to think, maybe the art of interviewing, the art of asking questions so to speak, is something more and more people should look into.

Language is not just a sequence of words, its tone, body language and facial expressions combined with the sequence of words. Understanding how to better find a means to communicate is something of a personal "quest" of mine, and I hope those links were as interesting to you as they were to me!

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