Thoughts & Ideas

The Art of the Interview

If there is one thing that I could do all day, every day, is interview people. I love it because I get to learn about what makes others tick. People are inherently interesting because each and every person on this planet has a story to tell. Some can tell it without assistance, others need to be asked questions in order to draw out the hidden nuggets and arcs of their story.

Last week, Jon Stewart’s guest on The Daily Show was none other than Bill Moyers discussing his latest book Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues. Moyers talked in-depth about the types of people that he loved interviewing–interestingly enough, politicians did not make the list–but what was most intriguing was when Stewart asked about Moyers interviewing process. In Part 2 of the embedded video below, Moyers says that he interviews for as long as wants to ensure that he captures everything that needs to be asked and said. From there, he edits the raw interview down to “the essence” of his subject. Fascinating! It gets even better! At 4:23, in closing, Moyers comments, “you listen for the meaning, not necessarily for the words.” Now that gets me excited!

So, how can you improve your interview technique?

  1. Interview at length. Don’t feel tempted to rush through the process. You need to be conscious and respectful of your subject’s schedule, but did you schedule enough time for the interview to occur?
  2. Do your homework. Research your subject. Craft questions that are simple, yet deep enough to inspire a thoughtful response from your subject.
  3. Listen. You not only need to listen to the words, but the intent. Words are the precursor to what a person means. If the words are there, but the meaning is almost there, be prepared to ask another question that will guide them closer to what they are trying to say.

I can’t wait to dig in to Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues and read more about Moyers’ interview technique. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the interviews with Jon Stewart. I highly recommend that you listen to his passion for meaning and the communication of a subject’s essence.

Bill Moyers on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Part 1

Bill Moyers on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Part 2

Header Photo by Aaron Hockley