Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Ending the Interview

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goodbye

Ending an interview is and isn’t like ending a conversation. It is like ending a conversation in that you are concluding an interaction you’ve been having with someone. And as such, there are certain social conventions you follow and social subtleties you have to be aware of. For example, when you’ve exhausted the subject and you both know it, you don’t grapple for something to continue it; you know it’s done. There is a certain grace to knowing that.

But you don’t want to be gauche, and turn on your heels and walk away. Just because the reason for the talk is past, you still have to find a gracious way to transition away from this person who has been sharing themselves with you. It may be taking a deep, audible breath, which most people recognize as a cue for, “I’m about to say goodbye – get ready.” Or, you might use a word like, “Well, …” which is also a cue for letting the person know you’re about to recap the interaction; “Well, I’ve really enjoyed meeting you.”

But ending an interview isn’t like a conversation in that, and I’ve said this before, since you probably don’t know the person you’ve been talking with either personally or professionally, trying to make a personal connection beyond the professional conversation is a no-no. Expressing any kind of longing for more, unless they’ve made the offer, is usually considered to be inappropriate. Of course, some interviewees might like certain interviewers more than others and be open to an invitation. But that can be professionally touchy, and interviewers need to be cognizant of the fuzzy lines.

Also, an interview is a professional interaction. You both are there for a reason, probably using expensive time and tools in the process, to an end that meets the needs of both parties. A simple, polite, elegant goodbye tells the interviewee you know what you’re doing, and it makes it easier for you to edit the convo after it’s over.

Besides that, a cleanly ended interview that’s not dragged out is clean for your listener too. They come to appreciate the fact that when it’s done, it’s done. They see you as a closer who can crisply do what needs to be done and moves on.

As in all cases, saying goodbye demands a degree of panache.

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Written by Interviewer

August 30, 2013 at 00:47

Posted in Scratchpad

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