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When I am shooting any kind of interview I always ask the person I’m interviewing ‘what their favourite biscuit is’. This is why this ridiculous question helps interviews be better.

Many people are nervous in front of a camera. They are not used to being interviewed, having powerful lights pointed at them, wearing a microphone and finding a camera put in front of them. It can be a stressful situation! To help put them at ease I begin every interview by mentioning a few key tips:

  • To relax and be conversational (The Dinner Party Mindset)
  • To keep eye contact (as if having a chat) with the interviewer regardless of who asks the question
  • To answer the question by restating the question as part of their answer.

Then I ask the question…

Asking the question

Restating the question as part of the answer is a simple but effective technique. Many kids are taught it as part of their English comprehension at school.

When a video is edited the questions asked by the interviewer are often removed or parts of some answers may be used to respond to different questions. What this means is that the interviewees answer must stand on its own without any additional context. Hence needing to restate the the answer as part of the question.

To help them get the hang of this before the interview starts properly I ask them “What is your favourite biscuit?”

Why ask the question?

A question like this is important as it achieves multiple objectives without coming across as patronising or overly directorial. The things this question achieves are:

Reason 1:

In a stressful situation it is easy for the interviewee to be thinking about all sorts of unrelated things. Asking an easy question like this brings their mind back on track and gives them the opportunity to practice a different way of talking from their usual.

The expected answer is “My favourite biscuit is…. (mine’s bourbons)”. So asking something simple at the beginning helps them get attuned to how the interview will run.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men

Reason 2:

It’s really silly.

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men

Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

The interviewee is likely a little stressed and focussing on their content and all the things they are going to have to say. Asking something silly that they are not expecting breaks their concentration so that they worry less about content and it establishes that the interview might be more lighthearted, relaxed and enjoyable than they expected.

Ultimately it helps put them at their ease and makes the shoot run smoother.

Reason 3

The final reason its that it teaches me something about the person I am interviewing and allows me to adjust my interview technique to best suit them.

If they immediately understand and get it right I learn something about how they process and deliver information.

If they get it wrong but realise when explained it shows me their ability to take direction and how nervous they are etc.

If they get it wrong but don’t understand their mistake, usually through nerves, it establishes a different style for the interview to take.

What can you ask?

When you’re interviewing someone identify something that will achieve these goals:

  • Help them understand how to come across well on camera
  • Put them at ease
  • Learn something about them

For more information about Smarter Video take a look here.

Please get in touch and let me know what you would like to learn or read about.

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