Expert Interviews 4: Guiding the interview

Young woman talking on the phone in her office in front of a laptop computer

In this lesson, you will give an overview of the interview and work on guiding it in the direction you choose.

Introduction: 

The last three lessons have been about explaining context and asking questions. We are going to combine them into a full interview where you introduce topics smoothly. 

Warm Up: 

Quickly interview your teacher about their professional experience. Ask them about:

  • their background;
  • their teaching specialty; and
  • one common trait in successful students.

Try to be professional in your approach.

Language: 

A. General to specific

Specific questions need to be introduced clearly. That can mean starting from the most general part and then specifying. Take a look at this example:

  • Unclear question

"What's the name of the company that is my client's main competitor in the Middle East region and what's that company's competitive advantage?"

  • Better order of information

client's competition > the Middle East region > the name of the competitor > their competitive advantage

  • Clear question

"I'd like to know about my client's competition, especially in the Middle East region. What the name of the main competitor there? What's that company's competitive advantage?"

Practice

Try an exercise with your teacher. Look at the following questions, decide on a better order of information, and ask the same question (or questions) more clearly.

  1. How many widgets were produced last year in the newer factory in Thailand and how many were produced in the older factory in Thailand?
  2. When did the current market leader in the ed-tech industry in your country become the market leader?
  3. How much did productivity change in the Delhi office after the new productivity measures were implemented, compared with before?
  4. How did the new meetings policy in the Paris office change workers' productivity in the office and were the changes perceived positively from the initial phase?
  5. What are the names of 3 or more companies that are newcomers or disruptors in the financial technology industry in Scandinavia who have entered the market in the last 12 months?

B. Moving forward to the next point 

You should tell the expert if you are staying on the same topic:

  1. On that...
  2. Also... 
  3. One more question on that topic. 

Also, smoothly transition to the next topic:

  1. Moving on... 
  2. So, next, I'd like to talk about...
  3. Okay, that makes sense. Next, I have some questions about...

Practice

Pick a couple of topics with your teacher and think of a few questions. Your teacher will give relatively short answers. When you feel the topic is complete, naturally move on to the next one.  

C. Controlling the conversation

Controlling the conversation can also be important. 

A. You can go back to a previous point:

  1. Do you mind if we go back a bit?
  2. Actually, just to go back to what you said before...
  3. Let me circle back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago.

B. You can deviate from the plan.

  1. Just a quick aside...
  2. Let me go on a short tangent here. 
  3. Let's actually go off track a little. 

C. If your expert mentions a topic you'd rather cover later, you can defer that topic.

  1. You're getting ahead of me. 
  2. Great point, but let's get to that in a moment. 
  3. Let's put that aside for a moment.

Practice

Let's start with a very simple topic—your teacher's hometown or a place they've lived. First, look critically at these questions and give your teacher a roadmap. Then ask the questions in an order that makes sense.

  • [Confirm your teacher's hometown.]
    • NOTE: It's safest to confirm with an "I" statement: "I believe your hometown is […]. Is that right?"
  • What's the population? 
  • What's the population trend?
  • What's the best food? 
  • Is there a local specialty? 
  • What's the population forecast in 10 years?
  • What's your personal favourite food? 
  • What's the climate like? 
  • Does it ever snow? 
  • What the best food to eat in summer?
Practice: 

Case

The country’s leading drugstore has hired your company to grow profits. One growth area is to accelerate the growth of sales of their gift cards. Your team sees the opportunity to grow their gift card sales in the B2B space; however, the company needs your resources and insight to execute this opportunity.

Your consulting firm is building a business case to validate this opportunity, Your team needs to: 

  1. Assess the competitive landscape.
  2. Identify best practices.
  3. Create the infrastructure to support the B2B gift card program.
  4. Create a marketing plan to successfully meet sales targets.

First, work with your teacher to decide how you would introduce this case and what questions you would ask. 

Then, interview the following experts. 

1. Chris Wile-Smith

Chris has over 20 years of executive retail business experience. He has led teams of thousands to win multiple retail awards. Now he mainly defines corporate visions and strategies to deliver significant and sustainable growth. He has steered commercial growth, strengthened customer advocacy, elevated team engagement and provided strategic foresight to some of the largest global retail brands.

2. Ryan Shelton

Ryan Shelton is a founding member of Retail Doctor Group, which he helped establish in 2005. Ryan has steered his business to become a leading retail firm, specialising in retail, franchise and service sectors in every retail category. Retail Doctor Group has a strong history of development and transformation of retail strategy throughout Australia, Singapore and Europe, including sales campaigns and marketing.