Qualities of a Good Interview: Non-verbals and Question-Asking


  • To learn the elements of an effective interview
  • To practice non-verbal communication
  • To develop skills for asking questions


  • Computer access with A/V capacity and Internet to show video clips
  • Video clip of an interview
  • “Watching Interviews” handout (1 per participant)
  • “Changing Leading Questions” handout (1 per participant)

Prepare Before

Pick a 2-3 minute clip of an interview that feels relevant for your group. We have used the below interview clips before because they are all one-on-one interviews without an audience. These interviewers all have very different styles — you might want participants to watch more than one for examples of different styles. While all the interviews are lengthy, watch 3-4 minutes of the interview from the recommended time. Participants will probably have to watch the clip more than once. It might also be helpful for them to watch part of the interview with the sound off if you want them to focus on non-verbal behavior.

Warm Up

How many of you been interviewed before, either for a job, for a school assignment, or by the media? How comfortable were you in the interview?

What, if anything, did the interviewer do to make you feel welcome? To show they were listening?

Did they ask questions that you did not know how to answer? What did you do?

As a group, list 5-10 qualities of a great interviewer. Ask for an example and definition of open, closed, and locked questions. Review if necessary.


We are going to watch some interviews to get some ideas on different strategies for interviewing someone. Pass out the “Watching Interviews” handouts. During the interview, watch carefully what the interviewer does and what the interviewer says. In particular, pay attention to how the interviewer shows they are listening and how they make the interviewee feel valued and welcomed. During the interview, take notes on your worksheet.


Review answers to the worksheet.

As a group, discuss the following reflection prompts:

  • What did the interviewer do to make the person feel comfortable?
  • How did they set up the space?
  • What did they ask at the start of the interview?
  • What did the interviewer do to make the person feel listened to? How did they sit? What non-verbal cues did they give? What verbal cues did they give?
  • What type of question did they ask the most?
  • Give an example of an open question they asked.
  • Give an example of a closed question they asked
  • Did they keep a neutral tone or not? How could you tell?
  • Did they ask any locked questions or questions that felt too personal?
  • What, if anything, did they do to keep the person talking and to get long answers?
  • Did they paraphrase? When?
  • The interviewer has a list of prepared questions and topics they want to discuss. What do they do to make these prepared questions seem natural?
  • What do they do to steer the conversation the way they want to?


In a good interview, we will use all the communication skills we’ve learned so far, including question-asking, paraphrasing, and all non-verbal skills. In addition, the interviewer has to listen very closely to be able to ask follow-up questions and to get the information they are looking for. The interviewer sets up the environment to convey the atmosphere they want — serious, relaxed, professional, casual, etc. When you conduct an interview, you will have to think through all these factors ahead of time. In addition, the interview has to make sure that their questions are not leading. You don’t want to influence their answers to fit what you want to hear or to fit what you believe yourself.



Come to a consensus to the following questions:

ENVIRONMENT:  Interviews should be in a place without interruptions or distractions, in a place that is not too hot or too cold.

  • In this school/organization, where are some places we could do an interview?
  • How should the space be arranged?
  • As the interviewer, how should you dress?

NON-VERBALS:   What should the interview do non-verbally to show they are listening?  To show they are not taking sides?


It’s hard to write good questions for an interview.  The interviewer should stay neutral, even though they may already have an opinion on the topic. One of the most important goals in interviews is to be open-minded and really hear what people have to say.

Remember that in an interview you want the interviewee to express their own thoughts, not respond to your thoughts or opinions.

When developing questions, ask yourself:

  • Does this question assume a certain opinion?
  • Does this question lead someone to a particular answer?

If you answer Yes to either of these questions, your question is probably leading. We are going to practice rewriting leading questions.

Get students into groups of 3-4 students. Each group will get a worksheet of leading questions that they will turn into open-ended questions. All groups should share out what they have written and compare examples of open-ended questions.

  • How can you show you are listening in an interview?
  • Why is it important that your questions are neutral?