12 Great Questions When Interviewing an Expert


bubble wrap  The interview process is a big part of working with subject matter experts. Your curiosity is your greatest asset when you are talking to an expert whether you are looking for information for an article, a book or a training program.

Capturing expertise and packaging it for transfer to others is a bit like moving precious cargo and surrounding it with bubble wrap. You want it to arrive safely and look the same coming out of the box as it did when you put it in.

In journalism school, you  learn a bit about how to structure an interview including getting simple facts straight like spelling someone’s name and title correctly and jotting down the date and time you spoke with them. Those little hacks are good to apply to any interview, anytime, for any purpose.

If you don’t know much – or anything at all – about a subject that you have to write about, here are a few starter questions to get you on a path to uncovering the important information that will help you develop a strong document.

These following questions are suggestions, and as such, they are broadly worded so you can adapt the questions to your situation.

Ask about:

1.                  Length of career, education, history with company or field

2.                  Details of studies or techniques

3.                  Ways this may differ from current knowledge, skills, attitudes

4.                  Any simple steps, shortcuts or easy ways to remember this information

5.                  Ways this information can be applied immediately

6.                  Any warnings or special care instructions

7.                  Variations or exceptions to the knowledge provided

8.                  When and where to apply knowledge

9.                  Types of exercises or practice to reinforce knowledge

10.              Any anticipated changes in this knowledge, field, technique

11.              “Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think should be included?”

12.              Date and time of next interview or check review schedule for materials created

One Last Tip

The good stuff is usually in the follow-up questions that you ask. Often, people will provide only basic information or will forget some important detail to the above questions. After your interviewee has answered the question, find a nugget in their answer that you find interesting and ask more about it.

Now you are getting to the gems. And they will appreciate the fact that you are listening and showing genuine interest.

What are your favorite interview questions? Please comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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