In Successful Interviews Hinge on Prep Work, we examined the importance of understanding our stakeholders as professionals and as people before engaging them in a structured interview. Having researched our stakeholder's salience, social style, emotional state, and general disposition, we may now structure an interview tailored to their communication style and project needs.
This white paper builds on those principles and discuss how to establish rapport, manage conflict and bias, and actively listen and respond to verbal and non-verbal cues. We will explore the contextual meaning of discourse, how to formulate cogent and meaningful questions, and how to assure the flow of the conversation is structured yet natural. Lastly, we will outline the fabric of the interview itself.
An important step to a successful interview is setting up a safe, trustworthy, and credible environment. Setting up a pre-interview with the stakeholder, either by phone, text, in person, or by whatever mode seems appropriate, often helps to clarify issues, refine the interviewer’s objectives, and begin the process of building credibility and trust. A good interview is about:
• Establishing rapport
• Situational awareness
• Helping the stakeholder understand delayed reciprocity
• Encouraging honesty
• Asking the right questions and encouraging dialogue
• Active listening
• Summarizing and consolidating what you have heard
• Managing bias and
• Trouble shooting difficult situations
The pre-interview is a simple but important step. Take the time to understand your stakeholder on a personal and professional level.
If possible, meet face-to-face to introduce yourself, briefly discuss the interview, and ensure the interviewee fully understands their purpose. If a face-to-face is not possible, arrange some other mode such as text messaging or a telephone call. Do not give the interviewee a list of your questions; just introduce them to the ideas you wish to cover. If the stakeholder is not willing to discuss a certain topic, it is best to remove it from the interview and discuss the matter with the project manager and sponsor.
The most important influence on how we interpret messages is context and the patterns within. The interview itself is an exchange of packets of raw data in the form of verbal and non-verbal packets. We give this raw data meaning through context. It is not surprising that some aspects of context link back to emotional intelligence. We understand communication exchanges by becoming aware of the six groupings of context. Each of the six types of context are present in all communication; however, depending on the situation, some will have influence over others.