Thursday, October 11, 2012

Great Questions for Interviewing Experts

An easy way to create new products is by interviewing other people, in an area that's of interest to your market but doesn't compete directly with you. Many people struggle with asking the right questions, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Here's one simple structure you can use for every interview you do.

First, prepare the questions ahead of time, and share them with your guest. This means that:
  • You can choose questions that tie in with your area of expertise
  • The expert can suggest questions that are most important in their experience
  • The expert can consider the questions and prepare more relevant answers
  • Your interview will flow more smoothly.
When you make your list of questions, follow this broad formula: Who, Why, What, How, What If, Contact.
These questions introduce the expert to the listeners, and establish the expert's credibility - for example:
  • How did you get started in this area?
  • What sort of clients do you typically deal with?
  • How long have you been working with these issues?
These questions motivate the listeners to keep listening by describing the problem and the benefits of solving it - for example:
  • In your experience, why are most people so bad at [customer service, time management, etc.]?
  • The latest research shows that most employees are still unhappy with their jobs, even in the best companies. Why are most companies getting it wrong?
  • Why is it important to use a formal strategic planning process?
These questions give an overview of the solution - for example:
  • What is the single most important principle in [goal setting, leadership, etc.]?
  • What are the keys to success in [whatever]?
Now you get into the details by asking the expert to describe the solution in more depth - for example:
  • So let's go through each of those steps in detail...
  • What simple things can somebody do right away to address this issue?
  • If you're not sure what to do next, how do you get started?
  • What are the typical things that could get in the way of implementing this process?
What If
These questions help the listeners to project the solution into the future - for example:
  • What sort of results can a typical organisation expect if they put your seven-step process into practice?
  • What companies are already doing this well?
  • How quickly can we expect results?
  • What should we be looking for to measure the success of this process?
Finally, you give the expert some exposure by asking how they can serve the listeners - for example:
  • Can you describe a particularly difficult client who used this process successfully?
  • What sort of businesses do you work with?
  • If listeners would like to get more help with this process, what services do you offer them?
  • How can they get in touch with you?
Although this sequence might look artificial at first, you will find that it's a natural progression that makes your interview flow easily.

The Why/What/How/What-If sequence is also based on research in learning styles, and has been designed to appeal to different types of learners.

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