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Interview tip #3: interviewing colleagues can be awkward


Third in a series of seven blog posts on interviewing techniques for nonfiction authors.

In your nonfiction book, you will often want to conduct interviews to widen the scope. You may even want to undertake an extensive series of interviews to create a unique collection of data points for your book.

In the last two articles, we looked at fresh ways to think of interviews, and approaches that will get the best out of your interviewees. But what if you’re planning to interview your boss, or a colleague, or someone you know through your professional network? It can be awkward to suddenly go all Oprah on someone you’ve known for years.

When you interview someone you already know, the relationship in that moment changes. The interviewer can turn up in the room as anything between therapist and interrogator, which is not what you usually are to your colleague, CEO, or networking buddy. Probably.

This is where mindset is everything. Remember in the last article we talked about approaching an interview like a structured conversation? In a professional context, that might translate to framing it as a fact-finding meeting, or a peer-to-peer discussion, rather than an “interview.”

You might even go so far as to avoid using the word “interview” when you ask professional associates if you can speak with them. Instead, ask them if they would agree to a one-hour meeting to discuss their experience of managing teams remotely, or their perspective on best hiring practices for diversity.

Another solution can be to bring in an outside interviewer. This could be a professional writer, or a junior colleague, or a grad student. It needs to be someone you can trust to apply all of the great interviewing principles you’re learning here, but they will have a little distance and may be able to ask certain questions more easily than you would.

Or consider making it a three-way conversation. If I’m interviewing the co-founders of a company, I like to interview them both together and separately, because the dynamic in the room shifts. A three-way conversation has a different flavor to a one-on-one interview, and may bring out some interesting perspectives.

Worried that your CEO will be offended by how little you know about him? In my next post I’ll tell you why you don’t need to fret about that.

If you’re at the planning stage for your book, sign up for my free email course What Drives Your Story? It will give you the rocket fuel you need to propel your book-writing energy! Or my free email course Make Your Book Stand Out to put your book head and shoulders above the competition.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay.

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© 2020 Sally Collings

The Book Proposal Expert

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