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how to deal with the killer question media interview training Glasgow

How to deal with the killer question

I keep six honest serving men

They taught me all I knew

Their names are what and why and when

And how and where and who

– Rudyard Kipling

Kipling – author of the The Jungle Book and renowned 19th-century journalist – knew how to communicate.

Here’s how you can use his mantra to answer any difficult question that comes your way.

The stuff of nightmares

how to deal with the killer question media interview training Glasgow

You’re mid-interview – when it hits you between the eyes.

The question that leaves you speechless.

It’s the end of your dream of a promoted position.

It’s the end of your credibility as an expert.

It’s the end of your ambition to grow the company.

And then you wake up.

Being asked the question that stumps you is indeed the stuff of nightmares.

And it’s why many refuse to engage with the media.

Or take the stage to join a panel.

Or even apply for a new job or higher position in the company.

But it’s an irrational fear.

Because there’s a rational solution:

Learn interview technique.

Good interview technique

Teaching interview technique was simple goal of the company I set up almost three decades ago.

Today, we’ve helped thousands of people overcome the fear of mental paralysis in 23 countries.

It’s helped Glasgow win the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

It’s secured more than a billion pounds of contracts and investments.

Last month, it helped a construction company secure a multi-million pound building contract.

And it’s very simple.

Work out the questions

how to deal with the killer question media interview training Edinburgh

Firstly, work out what questions may be asked.

So any question you could be asked will start with one of those words.

Write down the top 10 that you fear being asked.

That’s the best way for tough questions appearing from “left field”.

Work out your answers

Secondly, how would you answer those “killer” questions?

Now write down the key points you would make in response to them.

Closed questions

Finally – deal with closed questions such as “would you agree that…”

These require a different response.

Normally starting with a “yes” or a “no”.

Sometimes an “I don’t know”.

On occasions, “it’s too early to say….”

Now add those initial responses to the key points you would want to make.

You’re bridging from the direct answer to the key point you want to make.

“Would you agree your company has been slow to act?”

can be answered:

“No – we considered the right way to respond then acted quickly by doing X, Y and Z”.


how to deal with the killer question media interview training Edinburgh

Finally, stop when you’ve made the point.

Like a rugby player scoring a try.

If a rugby player fails to touch the ball down when crossing the try line and keeps on running, the player loses the opportunity of scoring altogether.

So make your point and stop.

Answering tough questions

Now you have the technique to anticipate difficult questions, prepare points you want to make in response and be direct in your answers.

Stop when you’ve scored your point.

That is interview technique.

It will stop you wondering:

What happens if I’m unable to answer a question in a job interview?

What happens if I freeze on stage when asked a difficult question?

What happens if a reporter asks me a questions that leaves me looking stupid?

Answering tough questions gives you the best opportunity of overcoming the objections that your audience may be harbouring.

It brings out into the open the concerns of the questioner – allowing you to allay their fears.

It demonstrates the depth of your knowledge and the strength of your conviction.

Instilling belief

how to deal with the killer question media interview training Glasgow

Many of us fear coming across the likes of Jeremy Paxman (above).

He built a career on tearing apart politicians and public figures.

But as we know, you can defend against that with directness and integrity.

So learn and use interview technique to secure that new job, enlighten a conference or engage with a media audience.

I’ve used it throughout my journalistic career to enter the profession,.

Secure jobs in newspapers.

Move to radio and branch out into TV.

I’ve used it to promote my business and views on radio and TV debates and panel discussions.

I’ve used it to campaign for children’s charities and overcoming injustices.

The more often you use the techniques, the more embedded they become.

Your confidence grows – as does your success.

Because when you believe in your answers, your audience believes in you.

Bill McFarlan is Executive Chairman of  Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can view his full profile here

Photos by: Huntington Theatre Company / CC BY / dullhunk / CC BYCC BY / all on

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