Interviewing Techniques – What We Did

This week, we were learning about different interviewing techniques, focusing on both being interviewed and interviewing someone.

Non-verbal Communication

We were first shown this pie chart which shows how humans communicate.

  • The green 7% is words, so what you are actually talking about.
  • The blue 38% is ‘how you say it’, for example:
    • Visual, auditory, kinaesthetic
    • Pitch
    • Pace
    • Volume
    • Emotion
    • Detail/High level
  • The orange 55% is ‘non-verbal’, for example:
    • Eye contact
    • Posture
    • Gestures
    • Facial expression


Next, we talked about different ‘social zones’ that we have, from the public space to the intimate space.

  • Intimate Space (<50cm) – most people would feel uncomfortable with people other than partners in this space.
  • Personal Space (>50cm) – most people would feel uncomfortable with people other than friends and family in this space.
  • Social Space (>1.2m) – if you were talking to a group of people, you would probably be this close. Usually interviews try to use this zone to make it friendlier.
  • Public Space (3.6m – 7.6m) – you would be this close for presenting or lecturing to a room full of people.

These zones can differ with different cultures, for example:

  • West Europe and United States don’t much touching in intimate and personal spaces.
  • United States have a larger personal zone.
  • Asia have a smaller personal zone (because of a higher population density).

Kinesics/Body Language

There are a couple of different body language features that can be picked up on and some are more easy to spot than others.

  • Face – when you talk to someone you would be looking at their face the most and different emotions can be easily picked out from facial expressions.
  • Eye Contact – when talking eye contact can show how interested someone is about the conversation, if they are looking away a lot it shows they are not very interested.
  • Posture – someone sitting up in a good posture shows better attitude than somebody who is slouching down in their chair.
  • Body Movement – if someone is tapping on the table or jiggling their leg, it can show that they are nervous.
  • Mimicry


When speaking, we also give out some hidden information about how we are feeling. The expression, rate, pitch contours and emphasis of different parts of speech can symbolise different emotions – for example:

  • I’VE just eaten the biggest steak – Bragging
  • I’ve just EATEN the biggest steak – Full
  • I’ve just eaten THE BIGGEST steak – Disbelief

Questioning Techniques

We then moved on to talk about some of the ways employers like to conduct interviews.

Usually employers use a framework of what they would like to find out, rather than a list of questions. This helps the conversation feel more natural and means that you can find out more about a person rather than quickly moving along to the next question.

That leads onto the next technique that employers like to use: flow. Letting the conversation flow makes the interviewee feel more natural and comfortable and again, lets the employer get more information out of the interview.

Employers also like to use the STAR technique which means Situation, Task, Action, Result. For example, with the question ‘Explain when you have shown leadership skills’, the employer wants to know the:

  • Situation: ‘On a one way road, someone’s car had broken down and I couldn’t get through. Everyone stuck behind this car was super annoyed and beeping their horns…’
  • Task: ‘I also wanted to get past, so I needed to calm everyone down and get all of them to help me move the broken down car…’
  • Action: ‘So I calmed down all of the drivers and got them to help me move the broken down car…’
  • Result: ‘And in the end we were all able to drive home’

Open Questions

Open questions encourage the free flow of information. They are usually questions starting with:

  • How…
  • Why…
  • What…
  • Tell me…

Closed Questions

Closed questions control the dialogue, they usually only get responses of a couple of words. They are usually questions starting with:

  • Did you…
  • Who…
  • When…

Neutral Questions

Neutral questions (unlike leading questions) don’t imply a bias. Examples could be:

  • Tell me about your working relationship with [bosses name]?
  • What speeds were the cars travelling?

Leading Questions

Leading questions imply a bias (i.e. that something has happened) and are prompting. Examples could be:

  • Do you have any problems with your boss? – implies that there is a problem
  • How fast was the red car going when it smashed into the blue car? – implies that the red car crashed into the blue car, use of language like ‘smashed’ is quite emotive

Barriers and Aids to Communication

Using a physical or ‘virtual’ barrier or aid can help to keep the interviewee at ease and comfortable during the interview:

  • Desks – even though the interviewer might be in the interviewee’s personal space (making them uncomfortable), the barrier can help to increase the social zone of the interviewee making them feel more comfortable.
  • Panel – having a group of people interviewing can make things a bit more comfortable as it feels like more of a ‘group discussion’ rather than a ‘one-on-one’.
  • Indifference/interest – having the interviewer have an interest in what the interviewee is talking about can help to make the interview more comfortable.
  • Distractions/interruptions
  • Rapport

Preparing for an interview

When preparing for an interview it is a good idea to think about the following things:

  • The environment – it’s probably more comfortable to sit in a casual setting on some beanbags or maybe have a walk outside, than be in a conference room
  • The framework – what do you want to find out during the interview?
  • Tag-teaming – if you have multiple people conducting the interview, who asks what and when?
  • Research the person