Expert Interviews 1: Starting right

Two businessmen having a discussion at a table.

This is the first lesson in the Expert Interviews section. It will help you quickly build rapport and make a great first impression.

Introduction: 

Read the following pieces of advice. Do you typically follow them? 

  1. Know exactly how to start—prepare for the first minute as much or more than the rest of the interview. 
  2. Get straight to the point.
  3. Talk to your interviewee, not to the question list.
Warm Up: 

A. Prepare

Discuss how you prepare for your expert interview. Do you do the following? 

  • Email the expert well before the interview.
  • Request specific information.
  • Research the expert's background or specialty.
  • Write out the questions.
  • Group the questions by topic.
  • Send the questions to the expert.

B. Perform

Discuss with your teacher how you feel during an interview. Are you confident? Nervous? Why?

Language: 

A. First impressions matter 

We use a lot of information to make a first impression. Tone, pacing and overall mood are important. Before going forward, discuss this with your teacher.

B. Say thank you

Start by saying, “Thank you.” Practice getting the tone right. In other words, don't rush. Say it as if you mean it.

  • Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. 
  • I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. 
  • I'm sure you're busy—thank you for making time today.
  • [How do you usually say thank you? Use an original phrase.]

C. Beginnings

Beginnings can vary. What would you say in the following situations? 

  1. You've had to reschedule the interview.
  2. You've booked the interview on short notice.
  3. The expert has completed pre-interview requests.
  4. The expert is part of your company, rather than booked through a vendor.

Practice with your teacher. Compare your ideas with theirs.

D. Mirroring

Mirroring is an important tool to build rapport. Use a similar register and tone to the interviewee's. If they speak casually, or formally, or if they are excited, then you can reflect that style. Do not completely imitate them or respond unnaturally. Rather, be the version of yourself that best reflects them.

Try mirroring the interviewee's tone in this exercise:

You will play the part of Person A, and your teacher will be Person B. Based on how Person B responds, what would you say next?

  1. Person A: Thank you for making the time for this interview.
    Person B: No worries! I've always got time for one of these interviews.
    Person A: _____
     
  2. Person A: Thank you for making the time for this interview.
    Person B: Yes, fine.
    Person A: _____
     
  3. Person A: Sorry that we had to change the time, but thanks so much for rescheduling.  
    Person B: All in a day's work. No dramas on my end.
    Person A: _____
     
  4. Person A: Sorry that we had to change the time, but thanks so much for rescheduling  
    Person B: (Sigh) Yea, well, you could have told me earlier.
    Person A: _____
     
  5. Person A: I know you are busy, I really appreciate your time today. This should only take about 20 minutes. 
    Person B: Okay. Noted. 
    Person A: ____
     
  6. Person A: I know you are busy—I really appreciate your time today. This should only take about 20 minutes. 
    Person B: That sounds fine. I'm in a taxi now and I'm still about a half-hour away, so take your time.
    Person A: ____
Practice: 

How would you begin the following interviews? 

  1. You've rescheduled the interview at the last minute. The expert's email response seemed curt and annoyed. 
  2. You requested two spreadsheets of data before the interview. The expert has sent one of them. 
  3. You've organised a last-minute interview with the managing partner of your company's Brussels office, who has generously given you 30 minutes of their time between meetings. 
  4. You sent a pre-interview email 3 days ago but haven't received a response.
  5. You requested some specific information and the expert responded with not only that information, but also another spreadsheet of relevant information.