Short Questions, Long Answers

Short Questions, Long Answers

Seven Dimensions
Updated Dec 30, 2019

Colin McLaren tells Eve Ash about how interviewers get better results when they keep questions brief, and don’t try to “steer” or hurry the person’s responses. The key is to calmly observe and stay on track. 

Course Overview 

For Colin McLaren, former homicide detective, short questions and long answers are his rule of thumb in interviews. A typical mistake made by interviewers is to ask “leading” questions, ie. delivering the expected answer for the interviewee or putting to the interviewee a scenario where the response would be entirely obvious. It is better, Colin tells Eve Ash, to keep questions short: either “closed” to establish facts, or “open” to elicit more detail or describe a circumstance. Let the interviewee talk: don’t interrupt or hurry them. A possible clue that you’re honing in on the truth is when they say “actually….” (the interviewee is using this to buy time). Remain calm and continue to build on every nugget of information with more questions. 

Key Learning Points 

For best effect, interviewers must: 

  • Use questions to control the interview – closed to establish facts, open to get more details 

  • Not ask leading questions (questions designed to give an expected or obvious response) 

  • Keep questions short and get long answers 

  • Let the interviewee speak 

  • Observe, don’t interrupt 

  • Never hurry the interviewee 

  • Listen for interviewee’s “actually….” 

  • Remain calm (don’t give away what you’re thinking) 

Interviewer: Eve Ash 

Interviewee: Colin McLaren