Effective Interviewing

Course Name: 
WRD 110
WRD 111
Assignment Type: 
Classroom Activity
Group Activity
Assignment Length: 
One Class Period
Primary Pedagogical Focus: 
Preparation Guidance and Instructor Advice: 

Instructor will need 3-4 colleague volunteers.  I usually bribe a few colleague-friends from the department with coffee or other tasty treats.  


Students should have read a handout on blackboard entitled "Interviewing rules to live by."  This document contains a few helpful tips to keep in mind during any interview.


Divide students into groups of 4-5.  Any more than 5 students will be too large for this activity.

Instructions to Students: 

Before class, ask each of your colleagues to assume a role, ie. a difficult interviewee, an interviewee who goes on tangents, a particularly quiet interviewee, etc.  Also, ask each colleague about a job they've had and give an extremely vague title to that job, such as Americorps Vista Volunteer or Guest Services Specialist.  Also, don't forget to instruct your colleagues to assume their role, ie "The difficult person" or "The Rambler."  The students will not know that I have given my colleagues this additional role.  

Have the students divide into groups and remind them that their main goal in interviewing these individuals is to find out as much about their job as possible.  Frame this as their purpose, as they will be familiar with this vocabulary from past classes on audience and purpose.  Next, have the interviewees come into the room and assign them to groups.  Ensure that each group have their job title.  Then just observe!  Oftentimes, students will forget to ask the name of their interviewee, or even forget their main purpose.  These are teachable moments.  After about 10 minutes, stop the interviews and begin by going around and asking the students what they learned about their interviewees jobs.  Also, ask them how they felt in the interview process.  Focus in on the specifics: Did they feel comfortable?  Why?  Uncomfortable?  Why?  What did they expect, and how did those expectation stack up to the results?

Next, have the interviewees talk a bit about their experience being interviewed.  This, of course, will give you a chance to hit upon some main issues regarding the students, like their eye contact, body language, use of technology during the interview, things like that.  At this point, you can tell the students that each interviewee was given a role and that that role may not, and probably is not, what the person is like "in real life."  This will crack up your students and probably lighten the mood a bit.

Lastly, you will want to have a discussion about how, oftentimes, this is how an interview will feel.  While students maybe have a bit of background info about their interviewee, this will likely not amount to much and it will be up to them to find out much much more.  They need to ask open ended questions in order to do so, and they will need to have backup questions for their backup questions.  In all, you will want to emphasize that the most important thing about an interview is prep.  Remind students that they need to come up with good, open-ended questions BEFORE the interview, in order to ensure that they get maximized results.

Additional Information: 

The goal of this activity is to of course give students a primer in interviewing 1) A stranger 2) Somebody they know very little about, but they need to get to know for a specific purpose 3) Somebody who is potentially somewhat quiet or difficult, or very personable, and the challenges that come with dealing with human subjects.

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