The Most Common Interviewing Mistake

There is no doubt in my mind that one interviewing mistake trumps all others: double- or multi-barrelled questions.

I am certain all interviewing coaches and journalism professors preach the importance of asking one question at a time. No matter how many times this simple piece of advice is offered, however, countless interviewers seem to ignore it.

I hear interviewers on radio and TV constantly breaking this critical rule.

“When did you arrive at this opinion? What effect did it have on your life? And would you have done it differently if you could have?” is a composite example of the type of stacked questions I often witness.

What’s wrong with this?

A lot.

Most interviewees can handle only one question at a time. A few can remember all the questions and respond to them in order. But they are, by far, the exception.

From my observation, most people, when faced with two or more questions at the same time, answer only one. Almost always, that will be the last one on the list (the most recent in their mind; remember, they could be very nervous, so this makes absolute sense).

Most Important Question Not Addressed

In most instances, however, the most important question, as far as the interviewer is concerned, is the first one, which often is never addressed.

Another problem with multi-barrelled questions is that one or more of the grouped questions is never answered. It or they just evaporate, as if they had no import. Oftentimes, the interviewer, rather than going back to the questions on the list, follows up on the answer to the one that is addressed.

So what happened to those other questions? Were they not important? Were they simply words in the interviewer’s mouth rather than points that the interviewer believed merited a response?

Many times valuable and important information is never raised, which can diminish the effectiveness of the interview considerably.

The multi-barrelled question can also prove embarrassing to the interviewer. On occasion, the interviewee, after dealing with the first answer, asks the interviewer to repeat the other questions.

“Sorry, I’ve forgotten what else you asked. Can you remind me, please?” is something I’ve heard many times.

Some interviewers can repeat the other questions. But a fair number can’t, much to their embarrassment.

I consider it a sign of professional competence when I hear an interviewer ask a single question.

Make sure you adopt this disciplined approach. It will make your conversations much more effective and thorough.