Interview Source as Employer

Here's a fun one --

I'm writing an article at the moment on a specific topic -- very specific. The editor called me with the assignment, and he gave me direction in where he'd like to go. He gave some names and a little direction on whom I should be calling, or at least attempting to reach (the editor is a laid-back guy who's just great to hang out with).

I contacted one company a week ago. Because it's somewhat of a political hot potato (marijuana legalization update), it's been tough finding interview subjects. Except for one guy, who's happy to talk.

However, he said this:

"Sure. I'll rewrite the questions and perhaps we can focus on women in leadership roles in our company."

Huh? So I sent a response:

"Actually, the editor is very specific in what he wants, and there isn't going to be a chance to work that angle in. The questions are what he's looking for in this, so there's not a lot of wiggle room here. However, if you can send over your ideas for questions, I can see what fits."

His response:

"Wednesday at 11 is fine."

Yea, not for me. When you see someone starting out trying to take over and redirect, it's going to be a colossal nightmare and a huge waste of time. If it hadn't been hard finding people to talk about this, I wouldn't have sent the reply at all -- just run the other way without a word.

Now I'll be telling him the direction has changed and we won't be needing a conversation after all.

I've had to deal with this in the past, but always at the point of interview, when they come armed with agendas that don't match mine or start talking without allowing me to get a question in. Back in 2002, there was one guy who actually shouted every time I tried to interject a question. After about 40 minutes of trying to shut him the hell up, I waited until he took a breath, then said, "That's all I need! Thanks." and hung up.

A lot of times, you can break into the conversation and say "I think we're getting a little off topic. So let me ask this..." But there are stubborn ones who will just go right back to talking about what they want, not what you need. In those cases, I've just ended the conversation early.

Have you had interview subjects try to redirect you?

What are your best ways to get the train back on the rails?

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Professional writer and editor with over 15 years of experience in trade and business writing. Specialties in risk management and insurance.

5 thoughts on “Interview Source as Employer”

  1. Maybe it’s the nature of my specialty, Jenn, but I see it at least once a year. I get the “Here’s the story you really need to be writing” move, which I’ve learned to dampen quickly. I’ve learned how to interrupt effectively, too. If they’re going off on a tangent that’s wasting time, I have no problem cutting in and steering them back on topic.

    It’s just frustrating that this guy in particular, who wants to rewrite everything before I’ve put fingers to keyboard, who isn’t worth the trouble. Next thing you know he’ll be expecting to review the article. Fat. Damn. Chance.

  2. Wow, that sounds tough. I’m sure you’ve done a TON more interview than me, Lori, but like Jenn I’ve been lucky with mine (so far – don’t want to jinx myself ;D ). Usually the person I interview is way more nervous than me (which I wouldn’t have thought possible). I’ve actually had a couple of people apologize for rambling off topic when they were actually giving me great quotes on just the info I needed

  3. Well, he actually responded positively to my request (and my parameters), so I went ahead with the interview. It was great. He gave a new perspective I hadn’t expected, and he didn’t stick with his stated agenda at all. He behaved! How refreshing!

    He even went so far as to respond to my questions in advance, which allowed me to create even deeper questions. What a time saver!

    I guess you never know when a bad situation will turn out okay.


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