Posted by: lorihowell | May 20, 2014

Interviewing Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney

Sitting face-to-face with Amanda Marshall in her 6th floor office in the U.S. Courthouse building, you’d never know that she is the top federal prosecutor in the state of Oregon, appointed by President Obama. If you’d heard Amanda’s stories about her crossroads in childhood, you wouldn’t suspect that she’d just shaken hands with Jimmy Carter. 

Amanda was very trusting during our interview about leadership. She openly told me stories about leaders that she admired in college and how they helped steer her career to places she otherwise might have overlooked. 

Our interview had clear objectives, but it felt more like a conversation.  Amanda was generous about storytelling and really seemed to appreciate the opportunity to reflect on topics and dig into the details. 

I’d like to be able say that I was able to gather all of this information because I’m a talented researcher who possess amazing interview skills. The truth, however, is that Amanda is a very open person and also a good friend. 

In the case where you don’t know the person your interviewing and they aren’t familiar with your work, I wonder how you build trust. Do you have any tips for getting people to open up?

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Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney, Oregon

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Responses

  1. Many people like to talk about themselves and their interests. Some people might feel more uncomfortable talking about themselves, but even such cases, I think it’s often helpful to ‘go first’ by demonstrating vulnerability in some sincere way. There are a few ways to do this, but I think asking for help or advice is a good way to establish grounds for an intimate conversation. If your interview aims at uncovering the human side of someone, it can be helpful to show them what kind of conversation you want to have, rather then begin with direct questions.

    People are more likely to open up in an environment where they feel safe, so it’s important to convey that quality of the conversation. You might also ask a few softball questions just to make them comfortable and ease them into the role of talking about themselves. This is another reason why preparation is important- a quick bit of research on your interviewee can identify key experiences, jobs, interests, and accomplishments that you can raise as topics for further detail. Research might also help you find topics to avoid or manage carefully. More importantly, it also helps convey that you are sincerely interested in the interviewee, which makes them feel more confident and encourages them to share with you.

  2. Thanks, Joel. Great suggestions. ~ Lori


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