Ok, so you're being interviewed by a journalist. You know that you need to be prepared and have answers ready, but what kind of questions might they ask you? Not only that, how can you prepare for them when you don't know what they're going to ask?
In any interview situation, whether it’s by a journalist or not, preparation is key. This means thinking about the types of questions you’d like to answer and those you’d rather avoid. (And if you are feeling uneasy about a particular question, how you can respond in a way that doesn't really open you up to further discussion on that topic.)
Keep reading to learn about the eight different types of tricky questions journalists might ask (and how to prepare your response in advance of an interview).
The first thing journalists ask is typically about your background. They want to know who you are and what you do by asking questions like: "When did you start this company?" "How long have you been working with this company?" "What is your educational background?" "What jobs have you held in this field before your current position?" "How did you get into this industry/field of study?"
This is the perfect opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, your business' achievements, or anything else that makes you interesting. It’s important to always be truthful and straightforward when answering these questions, as any journalist worth their salt will be able to research what you say for verification purposes.
"It’s important to always be truthful and straightforward..."
One of the most common types of questions a journalist might ask you are confirming questions. These are questions designed to get more information from you about what you’ve already said in the interview. They help the journalist make sure that they have an accurate understanding of the story and your opinion on it, so are questions like: "Do you think this is an issue that needs to be addressed?"
If asked a question like this, don't feel pressured into answering with a yes or no answer. Instead, use this as an opportunity to provide more information on why you feel this way, and why others should as well. For example, if asked "Do you think this is an issue that needs to be addressed?", you might reply: "I do believe that we need to address this issue because X, Y, Z."
"...don't feel pressured into answering with a yes or no answer."
Journalists will also likely ask you questions about data. (Journalists LOVE data.) These types of questions can range from the broad, like: “How many customers do you have?” to more specific, like “What is your customer retention rate?” For these kinds of questions, it helps to prepare a list of numerical data points in advance. They could be anything from your company’s annual revenue to your customer acquisition cost.
Make sure you know how to answer these types of questions, whether they are broad or specific, so that you always have an answer prepared. However, if you don't have (or can't get your hands on) exact numbers, provide an estimate to give the interviewer a sense of scale.
"(Journalists LOVE data.)"
By asking these types of questions, a journalist is trying to unearth a potential grievance against someone or something. (In your response, they're hoping for negative comments and potential scandals.) As such these can be challenging questions. However, by preparing for being asked these types of questions in advance, you're less likely to be shocked or (worse) lose your cool.
Sometimes, the situation might require you to address the question head-on. Either way, it’s vital to stay calm. If a journalist senses any frustration in your response to their grievance question, they're likely to keep probing with follow-on questions until they get an answer they can use.
Always aim to be as truthful as possible, without criticising [insert company/person the grievance question is about]. For example, you could respond by saying something like: "We understand that some customers have been unhappy with our service, which is why we’re implementing these measures..."
"Always aim to be as truthful as possible, without criticising..."
The most common types of questions a journalist will ask when interviewing you will be related to your new business, or the topic of the interview. However, journalists may also want to scratch beneath the surface and find out more about your personal life. Questions might be about where you live, your family members, even your hobbies. Some journalists may even ask for your opinion on current events in order to get your perspective on an issue that is currently in the media spotlight.
As long as you're prepared for these sorts of questions, you're unlikely to find them difficult to answer appropriately.
"...journalists may also want to scratch beneath the surface and find out more about your personal life."
Another type of question you may be asked (which follows on from the 'newsworthy' question), is an opinion question. For example, you might be asked what you think about an issue that's made the headlines at the time, a general question about the state of affairs, or your feelings about a particular issue.
You can prepare for these types of questions by doing your own research and rehearsing responses that present your opinions in a knowledgeable and informed way. Nonetheless, if you don't feel comfortable answering an opinion question, you can easy avoid it by saying that it’s not your area of expertise, or that you don’t have enough information to respond provide an answer.
"You can prepare for these types of questions by doing your own research and rehearsing responses..."
A tipping point question is usually used by a journalist as a way to gauge your opinion. It’s typically phrased as: “What do you think?” This is a question that could lead you to share more of your views on an issue or to exact an opinion from the interviewee. Keep in mind that the interviewer is looking for tips, tricks, and even advice on the latest developments in the respective field, so these questions can give you an opportunity to showcase a more in-depth understanding of what’s going on it your industry and your relevant expertise.
However, these types of questions can be tricky because they may require you to theorise about things that *might* happen in the future. Accordingly, the best way to answer these types of question is to be honest and thoughtful while avoiding over-sharing too much. For example, if your company's recent product launch has been successful, you could say "We've seen steady growth in recent months" or "Our new product line has really shown promise".
"...the best way to answer these types of question is to be honest and thoughtful while avoiding over-sharing too much."
A summary question is a way for the journalist to get a quick overview of your thoughts and opinions about the topic. For example, if you're being interviewed about a new type of fitness routine, the journalist might ask: "What are your thoughts on fitness generally?"
The key to answering this type of question is to offer up a quick, succinct answer that tells the journalist what they need to know without elaborating too much.
"The key to answering this type of question is to offer up a quick, succinct answer..."
So, now that you know the types of questions a journalist might ask you in an interview, it's important to prepare yourself for these questions when you’re being interviewed. While preparation is key, remember that you shouldn't over-think the kinds of questions you might be asked. Just make sure you're ready with your answers, and that you're able to speak up when the asker pushes further.
Now, to help your chances of *landing* your next big interview with a media heavy-weight, sign up to our media leads service at SourceBottle. It's FREE!
PS: Are you receiving free publicity opportunities, straight into your inbox?