Executive Rewind: Handling Multiple Questions

When two or more questions come at you in the same breath…

…listen carefully to what’s being asked and then pick the question you like best and answer that one


It can feel like the rat-tat-tat of a Gatling gun.  A barrage of questions for you to sort through.  More often, it’s typically two, maybe three at one time, or with enough of a pause between each for you to react and barely start answering, only to be interrupted again with another barrage.  (Interviewing evaluates the close cousin to Multiple Questions, the Interrupted Answer, next month.) In normal conversation, you’d probably make sure you answer each one, or all the ones you can remember.  But in interviewing, there’s another technique, more favorable to you.

Pay Attention

First thing, remember, this is not a conversation.  Otherwise, you can get sucked into the speed and flow of the situation and answer reflexively, instead of thoughtfully.
A classic case in point happened a few years ago to the Toys-R-Us CEO at the time, John Eyler.  Appearing on Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neil Cavuto to talk about very good news regarding company earnings, Eyler got caught in verbal buzz saw.

A sample of some of the give and take:
Cavuto: “That was the big beef right?”
Eyler: “Oh, of course.”
Cavuto: “People kept saying service stunk?”
Eyler: “Of course.”
Cavuto: “Those loud, fluorescent lights and all that.”
“You’re not running out of stuff anymore. That used to be a big problem.”
Eyler: “Not running out of stuff.”
Cavuto: Can we make sure that’s not going to happen?

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The Media Trainers® Re–winder Reminder:

  • Resist the reflex to react to every question, suggestion or accusation, simply listen quietly.
  • Select the question you like best, or that gives you an opportunity to advance your messages.
  • After you’ve answered that one question, you can then put the ball back in the interviewer’s court. Ask what else he/she wanted to know. That gives you more time to think, and forces him/her to remember what they asked. Plus, if the original questions had an edge to them, this time they may come back a little softer.

The Media Trainers® , LLC, has a Tough Questions eBook on our Web site that you can download free for easy reference.

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