If Interesting is the Rule, is Informative the Exception?

Giving a good interview is an integral part of achieving success in the PR world. On the most basic of levels, most PR jobs (and pretty much every other kind of job) require an interview during the hiring process. 

Once you’ve gotten over that initial hurdle, more interviews are sure to follow. But in these interviews the dynamic has shifted: you aren’t just representing yourself anymore; you are representing the all important client. In addition, the interviewer is not a potential employer, but an outlet giving you an opportunity you to create the perfect sound bite and (hopefully) generate even more buzz about the aforementioned client. 

These are the kind of interviews that Penelope Trunk recently blogged about, offering “Three ways to give a good interview, and one way to shake things up.” 

The first rule of good interviewing, according to Trunk is to “be interesting.” She expanding on this fairly broad bit of advice in the following excerpt: 

“The questions people ask you are not really what they want to know. It’s what they think will be interesting. They would ask you about the price of tea in China if they thought the answer would be interesting. So your job in an interview is to give an answer that is entertaining and thought-provoking and all the other things that people like. You don’t need to answer the question as much as you need to answer the need for interestingness.”

I don’t exactly agree that journalists ask their interview subjects questions, the answers to which they aren’t interested in learning. If you go to an interview to talk about your client’s latest product, you should answer questions about that product and provide information first and foremost. That is what you’re paid to do. Now I don’t think you should be boring in the process, but an interview is supposed to inform, not simply entertain. 

Trunk’s third point was to “be conversational.” She expanded on this point, writing the following: 

“First of all, it tells the audience that the person interviewing is interesting in their own right, because you are asking questions back to him or her. And a room with two interesting people is better than a room with only one interesting person. The second thing is that the conversation becomes a little less scripted and there is more risk and more space for unbridled passion, on either side of the conversation. And spontaneity makes conversation more engaging.” 

I think Trunk makes a good point in the last two sentences. The best interviews that I’ve seen always seem the least scripted, and spontaneity does tend to grasp and maintain viewers’ attention. 

The last few thoughts Trunk made the point that often judgments are made about you within the first couple of minutes of meeting someone; therefore, it is important to make those first two minutes count. She offers ways to successfully market yourself in the first couple minutes of an interview in the following excerpt: 

“Be upbeat is also a rule. I think. But why is this a rule? I’m not sure. I think it is like the rule about the first two minutes – or whatever the time frame is that someone forms their judgment of you. You want them to meet someone who is fresh-faced, chirpy and upbeat.” 

This is another point that I can’t say I agree with completely. I know that for me personally, chirpy is not a trait that I highly value in a person; in fact, the first thing that comes to mind when I read the word chirpy is the word annoying.

I do agree that it is important to give the best first impression that you can, by having a positive attitude during an interview- or in any situation in which you are going to be interacting with someone new. However, I would argue that you still need to be yourself. So, if you are fresh-faced, chirpy and upbeat by nature, then I say go ahead and offer that up. But if you’re not, then don’t fake it because it will seem phony and you will lose credibility. I think that the best bet in an interview situation is to be yourself.


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