Competitive Intelligence

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Hello CI friends,
We had a great example of a very hostile interview played out on Canadian radio yesterday. Jian Ghomeshi, host of the CBC Radio 1 program Q, interviewed Billy Bob Thornton and his band the Boxmasters

The trouble started because Jian did not handle Billy Bob according to instructions -- and committed the cardinal sin of referencing Billy's acting career at the start of the interview.

Billy completely shut down and would not answer questions as simple as when did you form your band? Billy played dumb and gave answers like "I don't know what you mean" and "I don't know what you're talking about." He pretended that he had never met Willie Nelson, although the Boxmasters are currently on tour with Willie. He rambled incoherently with stories about building monster models as a child when asked about the source of his early interest in music. And then proceeded to insult Canadian audiences when the purpose of the interview was to promote his Canadian tour.

If you have time to listen to the audio (the speaking part of the interview is ~ 13 mins), it is really worthwhile to see how Jian handled the situation with a lot of grace. You can pick up the audio at the Q web site:; and/or here is the direct audio link:

I've posted this interview as I think we have all experienced uncomfortable interviews in our careers -- would anyone like to comment on best practices for handling difficult/hostile interviews?

I had one interview that stands out as 7 of the most uncomfortable minutes of my working life. Although thankfully it wasn't played out on live radio... I was very surprised that my interviewee was so hostile about participating in the interview -- he refused to answer any probing questions to his yes/no answers and eventually said that my questions were annoying him -- but that he continued with the full interview. And then at the conclusion of the phone call, he thanked me for calling!

So...any thoughts on how to handle challenging interviews?

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Jian Ghomeshi is actually a model here for anybody doing collection. Note how he keeps asking probing questions and constantly evolving his approach, even with a comically hostile interviewee. Open-ended questions, holding to a theme, and not taking the bait to descend into childish behavior. Smooth stuff.
Besides the fact that Billy Bob is truly the definition of a jerk...what I found interesting about this interview was that Jian Ghomeshi did not take any of the comments personally and did not appear to judge. I think the hardest thing about interviewing is not taking rejection or difficult interviews personally and allowing yourself to move on to the next question or conversation without there being some residual impact to your self esteem which then snowballs into more bad interviews. One person once to told me to remember that "I have the right to be here and say what I have to say and ask the questions I need to ask" and to speak with authority without being arrogant. Tough to do sometimes. Thanks for sharing this Ali.
Well my favorite interview story was when i was given some crucial information and instead of just pretending nothing had been said, i tried to investigate further - alerting my interviewee on what he'd just said. It wasn't confidential, but it gave a clue to the whole project. Unfortunately i never got more detail or explanation from that interviewee but the unguarded comment led to several new avenues that i'd not considered. It just took a lot more work than if i'd kept quiet and pretended that nothing significant had been said.


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