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Sit on the Same Side of the Table

June 11th, 2012




If you are to interview a customer you have not met before, your goal is to build trust through an open atmosphere. This summer I did six interviews during one week. Each of them lasted 1 hour. It was important to build trust fast. I used a new tactic to set the stage for trust building, i sat on the same side of the table as my interviewee. I will tell you how it worked when I interviewed a young project leader.

The company she works for is an important customer of my customer. The results of the interview was important and she must leave the interview feeling good.

The Interview

I am waiting in a meeting room at the premises of her company. I stand holding the interview guide in my hands as she enters. We shake hands. The first thing I say after we have said our names are:

“We are going to work together on this document. So if we sit on the same side of the table it will be easier for both of us.”

Sitting down I could feel the atmosphere was a little lighter. This was not going to be an interrogation. (robert) Quite early she started giving realtively critical constructive critic to my questions. Which in my experience is a sign of mutual trust.

So Why is the “Sit on the Same Side of the Table” Tactic Working?

Why not compare it to three potenital traiths of a more traditional interview setting:

  1. We sit on opposite sides of the table in a “negotiation position”.
  2. Betwen us lies the interview guide as a barrier. Who gets to read upside down? You, me?
  3. I ask her questions like in an  interrogation. Should I bring a big lamp, some dentist equipment to torture you more thoroughly?

What Happened in This Interview?

One of the first things she saw was the interview guide in  my hands. This prepares her. I gave her an offer to work together on answering the questions in the interview guide. She said yes.

  • Both of these acts of communication brings our dialog in a positive direction.
  • We sit physically closer than we would and without the table and interview guide between us.
  • The spotlight is more on the interview guide and less on her. This made her relax.
  • We are in a “work mode” wich is familiar. Not an “interview mode” which is not familiar to most people. Except me and my ilk.
  • We focused on our common goal, finding specifics that may improve her relationship to company X, my customer.

Book tip of the Day

I got inspiration for this blogpost from Beth Goldsteins book  Lucky By Design. Beth Goldstein has empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs to successfully grow their companies. She is the Faculty Director for Boston University’s Online Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship Program (recognized by Fortune Small Business Magazine/CNN Money as one of the top 5 e-learning entrepreneurship programs in the U.S.). Click and buy the book now and I will get a dollar ;-)

Here is our Bookcasting Podcast if you want more book tips.

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