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Interview 101: No Bluffing!

It seems almost daily, someone makes the news for making an outlandish statement claiming erroneous facts as truth. Bob Knight, Jesse Jackson, Jon Kyl and Miss Teen South Carolina USA are just a few of the recent and infamous examples. In each case, they missed an important lesson in public speaking and interviewing 101: Don’t bluff your way through an answer.

In case you missed it, here is a quick recap of their respective missteps:

Legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight recently stated that Kentucky “started five players in the NCAA Tournament games that had not been to class that semester.” (He has since retracted this statement and issued an apology.)

Last week, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) said on the House floor that the iPad is “probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs.” (The publishing industry is suffering for many reasons)

During budget debates earlier this month, Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) claimed abortions are “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.”  (Turns out, it’s actually 3 percent)

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And who could forget Miss Teen South Carolina USA 2007, Caitlin Upton’s frazzled and rambling response when asked about why U.S. children can’t find their home country on a map? (We can’t even offer a fact check on this. But this You Tube video can help refresh your memory about “South Africa, The Iraq, everywhere like such as”)

During a media interview you may find yourself in a similar position. But when a reporter asks you something you don’t know, making up a response (that is always “on the record”) can only end poorly for you, your company and your brand (and potentially land you in viral infamy.) Instead, your best tactic is to just be honest, and let the interviewer know you will provide an answer later. “You know, Amy, that is a great question, but unfortunately, I don’t have the statistics on that in front of me. But I will follow up with you this afternoon to get you an answer.”

However, if you find yourself in a live broadcast TV or podcast interview or an on the spot situation like a Q&A round after a speech, postponing is not an option. So instead, answer the question you wish you were asked that loops back to your core messaging (another Interview 101 tip.) So let’s revisit that poor Miss Teen South Carolina as an example. Let’s suppose her platform was physical fitness for kids. A better response would be “Students not being able to locate the U.S. on a map speaks to my concern that kids are spending too much time indoors and inactive. By encouraging more physical fitness and activity within education, all students will be better off.”

The best media interviews always look like a flawless, friendly conversation, with two people just bantering about. But getting to that point takes a lot of work, practice and preparation. And even the most seasoned interviewee will tell you they usually get asked at least one question that makes them stop to think. But rather than make it up, just remember, when in doubt, leave it out.



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Contributed by: Andrea Hawley

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Andrea Hawley

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