The Six Keys to Being a Successful Interviewer

In 2003, while working for a non-profit in the Bronx, I was appointed host and producer of a live half-hour interview program on Bronxnet Television.   It was an award-winning show for the network.

To prepare, I studied those who I considered to be the best interviewers.  Bill O’Reilly would always give his guest the last word.  Tim Russert was always prepared; he knew the subject and he knew his guests.  Johnny Carson would let the guest shine and, on occasion, actually let the guest interview him.  Similarly, Mike Wallace, when not confronting the dregs of society, was interested in his interviews entertaining as well as informing.  And Larry King had one rule:  He never spoke to a guest prior to an interview because he did not want to know how they were going to answer his questions.  Their conversation had to be genuine.

(If you want a free Master Class in interviewing watch these videos.  Watch them twice.  First for the fun of it, and then to learn: Johnny Carson and Bob Uecker on Johnny Carson; Jerry Lewis with Raymond Arroyo – arguably the best interview I have ever seen for reasons that Mr. Lewis himself explains,  and Mike Wallace – pay special attention to the Mel Brooks interview.)

After I left the non-profit, I started my own interview show on BlogTalkRadio, Bruce Hurwitz Presents. (Let me know if you want to be a guest!)  Subsequently, after I joined the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, I became host and producer of The Voice of Manhattan Business, the Chamber’s weekly podcast. If you add together the 28 television interviews I conducted, and those on the two podcasts, I have interviewed over 400 people.  This is what I have learned:

Job Description

Excluding “shock jocks” whose job it is to entertain by embarrassing and humiliating the guest, and for whom I have neither respect nor patience, the job of an interviewer is to make the guest look good.  (Those were actually the instructions I was given when I accepted responsibility for The Voice of Manhattan Business.)

In order to make the guest look good, you have to prepare.  In that way, as I will cover presently, you will be able to either keep the conversation focused or expand it, as the case may be.  You never want to make the guest tense.  You want them to be calm.  There have been a number of times I could have humiliated guests who simply did not know what they were talking about, but to what end?  I would have been making myself look bad, not them.  They would have garnered sympathy while I would have garnered contempt.  It’s easy to humiliate; it’s hard to make someone who is not all that good, look good.

Listen

The key is to listen.  Because it is a podcast, I can’t see the guest.  I only have their tone of voice to go by.  That is how I determine if they are nervous.  But it is also how I am able to turn the interview into a true conversation.  I listen to their answers, I do not anticipate them and I never think about the next question I’ll be asking, even if it is on the paper in front of me.  If I am not genuinely interested in the answers, not to mention the subject, then IBM’s Watson could do the interview.

Prepare

I never know, from week to week, what type of guest I will be interviewing.  They could be well-versed in the topic (which, by the way, they choose) and very well-read.  Those are the best interviews because the discussion can go anywhere.   Once I was interviewing an expert on funding options for small businesses and ended up discussing Theodore Roosevelt.  It was a good show.

Sometimes a guest knows their topic and is scared to death.  I have to find a way to put them at ease.  I’ll do that by asking simple follow-up questions.  From the sound of their voice I know when they are relaxed and only then do I ask a follow-up questions.  If they don’t relax, I just stick to the main questions, the ones they received in advance.

Then there are the guests that think they are experts but really don’t know what they are talking about.  That becomes painfully apparent when they give the wrong answer to a simple follow-up question.  In that case, because of my job description, I simply say, “Well that’s interesting.  I always thought…  Let’s move on” and then I ask the next question.  I provide the correct answer because I do not want my listeners to be misinformed; I do not debate the guest because I do not want them to look foolish.

Bottom line, I always have to be prepared even if the guest isn’t.  That means learning what I can about the guest and their topic, but also expanding my intellectual horizons so, if possible, I can expand the conversation to other areas, like I did with TR, so as to make the interview more interesting and hopefully to expand the audience.  You have to be well-read.

Questions

While the Chamber’s podcast is live, rarely do any listeners ask questions.  I consider that a compliment.  It means (at least I hope it means) that I am asking the questions they want to ask.  I always begin with definitions so there is no doubt about the subject.  Then I proceed in a logical manner to ask questions building to the end result which both the guest and I want.  My follow-up questions build on the guest’s answers.  They are meant to clarify and expand the conversation.

Amusing examples of great questions are when Johnny Carson, interviewing David Letterman just after Jay Leno had been announced as Carson’s replacement, asked, “How pissed off are you?”  It was funny and exactly what everyone wanted to know.  Then there was Leno interviewing the actor Hugh Grant who had been caught with a prostitute.  Leno’s question: “What the hell were you thinking?”  Same thing: funny and what everyone wanted to know.  And then there is the brilliant question that no one would think to ask.  Carson asked Frank Sinatra, “When you want to be romantic with a woman, whose records do you put on?”  The beauty of these questions is, if the guest can handle them, and they all did, the guest looks better than the interviewer.  (Basically the answers were: If you keep using that language you’ll lose your job.  I wasn’t.  And a singer from the 1930s whose name I do not remember.)

Focus on the Guest not Control

Just because I am the host does not mean I am, nor should be, the star.  The best shows are the ones where my presence is not felt.  It should always be all about the guest.  Leave your ego at the door, so to speak.  I once interviewed a woman whose answers were so intriguing, she was so knowledgeable, I let her speak without interruption for a good 15 minutes before asking my next question.  If the audience is learning and enjoying, what does it matter how much I speak?  I’m always the one in control because I can end the interview any time I want.  The guest can’t do that.  It’s their interview, but it’s my show!

What it Takes to be a Good Host

To summarize, the characteristics of a good host are the ability to listen; intellectual curiosity (being genuine; actually caring about the guest and the subject); being well-read; generosity (making the guest look good; no cheap shots); being a good researcher (preparation); and keeping your ego in check.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

Candice Galek of Bikini Luxe to be Interviewed on Bruce Hurwitz Presents

This coming Thursday, ACandice Galekpril 14, at 11:30 PM (EDST), Candice Galek will be interviewed on Bruce Hurwitz Presents! about her LinkedIn marketing campaign.

Ms. Galek is the founder and CEO of Bikini Luxe, a Florida-based retailer specializing in fashion clothing, swimwear and accessories for young women.  Founded in December 2013 as a one-person operation, with Ms. Galek working alone in her dining room hand writing and packing every order that came in, Biki Luxe has grown into a business with more than 10 employees in its Miami office and an international team of 40.

Although a relatively young company, Bikini Luxe has risen quickly in the ranks of online fashion, stocking well over 2,500 different bikinis and one-piece swimsuits.  While primarily focused on luxury swimwear, the company also sells other designer clothing items and accessories, such as designer active wear, luxury resort wear, jewelry and dresses.  It has grown to the third largest online swimwear retailer, now carrying such well-known brands as Frankie’s Bikinis, Agua Bendita, Beach Bunny Swimwear, Michi NYC, and Shahida Parides.

Ms. Galek has taken Bikini Luxe from humble beginnings to a world renowned swimwear and resort wear hot spot that’s been featured in publications such as Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Inc., and on Fox Business Channel.

Want to ask Ms. Galek as question about her marketing campaign and using LinkedIn to grow a business.  Call in at 11:30 PM (EDST) to 516-387-1690.

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Have an interesting story to tell?  Interested in being a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents?  E-mail your proposal to Bruce at bh@hsstaffing.com.

 

Fearlessness

Gil EffronWe all have fears the question is, how do we overcome them?  Without the ability to do so, success will be elusive.

Join me on Thursday, March 17 at 9:30 AM (EDT), on Bruce Hurwitz Presents! when my guest will be business and marketing strategist and advisor Gil Effron.

Gil is founder and CEO of the Profitability Institute, a Tampa-based coaching and consulting firm dedicated to helping business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams successfully tackle urgent challenges, improve organizational efficiency, and map winning strategies for future growth and profitability.  He also heads The Strategic Marketing Team, a division of ProfitAbility Institute.

Gil is the author of How to Close More Business in Less Time (2014) and How to Give Your Business an Extreme Marketing Makeover (2010), an active blogger, and proficient marketing writer. Gil has written and published hundreds of articles on marketing and the sales process.

From strategic business and marketing planning and connecting the dots between marketing and the sales process to creative problem solving and precise implementation, his primary mission is to help his clients improve outcomes, build highly-profitable businesses, and learn how to become better leaders.

Gil holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, a Master’s from Michigan State University, and pursued additional post-graduate studies at Ohio State University.

After spending seven years in New York City, Gil sold his snow shovel and returned to the Tampa Bay area to be closer geographically to family.  While in New York, Gil was extremely active in the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. He served on the board of directors and was instrumental in developing and launching several major activities including The Voice of Manhattan Business podcast and MarketingWeekNYC.

Is Fear Getting in the Way of Your Success?

Carolyn AlroyIt is all too common for fear of success to block a person from achieving their goals.  If this sounds like you, join me at 9 AM (EST) for a discussion with Dr. Carolyn AlRoy on Fear of Success.

Dr. Alroy, a psychologist, business coach and consultant, and an expert at resolving resistance to success for businesses and individuals, has been practicing in Manhattan for 16 years.  She attended Rutgers University and earned her doctorate at Pace University. Her focus is on creating abundance for individuals, profitability & productivity for companies.  She does this by removing blocks to success.

Can’t listen live?  No problem.  The archived show will be available at your convenience.

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Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.

 

 

The Paralegal Profession

Mariana Fradman

Join me Monday morning at 10:00 (Eastern Time) to learn about the paralegal profession on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!

My guest will be Mariana Fradman.  Ms. Fradman is a paralegal working with the Real Estate and Affordable Housing practice groups at Nixon Peabody LLP, multinational law firm. She has over twenty years of real estate experience in real estate practice, concentrating in the areas of transactional real estate law addressing all aspects of project development, rehabilitation, and operation, including acquisitions, dispositions, public and private financings, joint ventures and investments.

Ms. Fradman was elected as President of NYCPA in September 2009, re-elected in May 2011 and held the position until May 2013. As a leader of NYCPA, she became a valuable part of New York City’s paralegal community. In addition to serving as President, Mentor Program and CLE Chairperson, Mariana was a Member of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Paralegal Studies, SCPS, of New York University. Currently, she is a Member of the Advisory Boards of the Paralegal Programs at Berkeley College and New York Career Institute.

In addition to her full time job as a paralegal at Nixon Peabody LLP, Ms. Fradman is an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, teaching business and real estate law at the Paralegal Certificate Program. She continues to be a member of the NYCPA Executive Board of Directors where she serves as Treasurer and chairs the Mentor Program and Continue Legal Education Committees.

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Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.

Learn About Client Development and Retention

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Join me on Tuesday, February 16 at 9:00 AM (Eastern Time) for an insightful interview on client development (acquisition) and retention.

My guest will be David Post, President of DVP Advisors, Inc.

David has 25 years of strategic consulting experience with broad expertise in HR, Project Management, Business Development, Organizational Design and Strategic Development.  David’s focus is in advising entrepreneurs, not-for-profits and organizations seeking to build sustainable businesses.

David knows the business world as both an entrepreneur and a product of multiple corporate environments.  His work has enabled him to live and work in the UK for three years, to consult in the US, the UK, the Netherlands and India.  David has presented to audiences in the US, the UK, Belgium, Germany and Canada.  David has a BA in Organizational Communications from New York University.

DVP Advisors, Inc. is a management-consulting firm that helps strengthen organizations and empower organizational leaders. We work to support your goals and aspirations for your business.  Through a process of enquiry, analysis and implementation, we analyze, evaluate and recommend solutions to the challenges you want addressed.

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Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.

A.J. Luna to Appear on Bruce Hurwitz Presents to Discuss Veterans in Transition

AJ LunaAriel J. Luna, Bergen County, New Jersey’s Director of Veterans Services, will be interviewed on Bruce Hurwitz Presents! for a discussion about issues facing veterans transitioning to civilian life.  The show will air live Thursday, February 18 at 9 AM (Eastern Time).

Luna enlisted in the U.S. Army at the start of 2000 and he was stationed as a communication soldier in Fort Gordon, Georgia, South Korea, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  After he left the Army in 2002, he joined the NY National Guard where he was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004-2005.  While serving in the National Guard, Luna was pursing his bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College.  He recently completed his Masters in Administrative Science with a concentration in Non-Profit Organizational Development from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In 2007, Luna received the opportunity to run a program at the NYC College of Technology.  In a period of two years, the Veteran Services Office assisted over 500 veterans with educational benefits, disability claims, job referrals, G.I. Bill workshops, and student veteran events.

In 2009, Luna came on as the new director of veteran services for Fairleigh Dickinson University.  The Office of Veteran Services was created and students on campus and online now had access to a one stop shop for a majority of their needs.  Students had access to one of the most knowledgeable individuals about the new Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.  Luna was involved with the group Student Veterans of America back in 2008.  This was one of the key groups that helped lobby to pass the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

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Do you have an interesting story to tell?  Are you looking for media attention?  Be a guest on Bruce Hurwitz Presents!  Send your request to Bruce Hurwitz at bh@hsstaffing.com.