Posted by: kgaboury | May 14, 2014

When interviews go bad – Gaboury

Natalie and myself will be presenting on interviewing tomorrow night, but I wanted to give you guys some food for thought before then. The vast majority of interviews go off without a hitch. The interviewee is prepared, helpful, and friendly. However, in what I call the “nightmare interview,” the subject is unprepared, in a bad mood, or just plain mean. Every question turns into an attack on the interviewer’s credibility (“Why would you ask me that? That’s stupid”). As a professional, you have an obligation to salvage the interview somehow, but when do you pull the plug? For an example, here’s Quentin Tarantino going off on some poor journalist:

 I also wanted to emphasize the importance of recording interviews. In my journalist days, I interviewed a political candidate who wasn’t quite the “nightmare interview” type, but almost. When the story came out in the paper the next day, he called in, demanding a retraction because he felt I had misquoted him (he used the interview as an opportunity to attack his opponent). When I asked if he’d like to listen to my recording of the interview, he decided to let it go. Written notes aren’t always reliable, and the recording gives you the extra insurance against accusations of misquoting.


  1. The amazing thing about the Tarantino interview is how unflappable the BBC journalist is. He remains professional even after Tarantino has turned hostile and is even able to somewhat salvage the interview with a final question that Tarantino answers somewhat thoughtfully.

    Although I think Tarantino definitely behaved badly, having seen my fair share of interviews of the director, I can understand why he snapped. He’s been asked the same kinds of questions about violence for the last 20 years. Interviews can be like little games, as interviewers and interviewees come to the interview with their own preconceived notions of what kind of story they want to tell. Tarantino simply got tired of playing the game. As far as he was concerned, he just wanted to sell his movie and be done with it.

  2. I somewhat agree. Tarentino gives the reason for why he took this interview (on a media day for his film “Django” no less). It was to promote his movie. To get people to go watch it. He and the interviewer were not on the same page as to the purpose of the interview and hence it fell apart. I will agree that when interviews do go wrong, a factor that leads into it is the interviewee’s lack of preparation or their bad mood.

    I do like how this BBC interviewer got something out of the altercation (besides shock value) and tried to go on with the interview. Though he held professionalism nicely, I guarantee he took a deep breath afterwords. Also, right on for the way you handled your situation. You believed you were in the right and had the proof to back it up.

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