Posted by: Nathan Dinsdale | May 16, 2013

When Interviews Go Bad

Interview rapport is a fascinating thing to me. In many cases, an interview effectively involves two people trying to have a natural conversation in decidedly unnatural circumstances. Yet most interviews go well enough. Some are great. Some mediocre. But out of the hundreds of interviews I’ve done during my career (first in journalism, now in marketing), it’s usually the flame-outs that I remember most.

Lindlof & Taylor are dead-on when they talk about the fact that you can have rapport between an interviewer and an interviewee even when the two have almost nothing else in common except the fact they happen to be talking to one another at that moment. It’s relatively rare when you come across an interview subject that sabotages the interview either consciously or unconsciously. In the case Donna cited earlier in the term, Grace Slick interviewing Frank Zappa, it was a combination of “dumb questions” (as the Shel Israel reading might suggest) on Slick’s behalf but also some sly gamesmanship by Zappa. 

On occasion, the interviewer simply isn’t prepared or nimble enough to avoid pulling a Chris Farley Show. But it’s often the best interviewers (like Terry Gross and Gene Simmons or 60 MinutesMike Wallace and, well, pretty much everybody) who are able to take difficult questions, subjects and (especially) interviewees head-on and be the one left standing with fresh insight and perspective for the rest of us to enjoy.  

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