How to Conduct a World-Class Interview

How to Professionally Conduct a World-Class Interview

by Nicholas Tart

I love interviewing young entrepreneurs. Being able to use those interviews in our book and on our site is just a bonus.

But convincing people to give you an interview is challenging. If you want to attract world-class interviewees, you have to make the process as painless as possible.

To do that, I have developed a scientifically-provien process for getting the big guns to talk to me.

Contacting Them

Generally I contact my interviewees via email. If I can find a phone number, I’ll use that. Other methods I use are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype and commenting on their blogs.

If they don’t reply to your initial email, try contacting them as many different ways as possible asking if they got your email. The more interested you appear, the more likely they will be to respond.

The first email you send needs to be laid out with plenty of specifics detailing who you are, what you do, why you want to interview them and how they will benefit by giving you an interview. The more thought you put into this email, the more likely they will be interested.

Conducting the Interview

Once you get them scheduled, follow this process:

  1. Send them the entire list of questions in the order you will be asking them.
    Your goal should be to make them come across as eloquent as possible. You can do this by making sure there that aren’t any surprises.
  2. Send them a confirmation email the day before the interview.
    If the person is interview-worthy, they are going to be busy. Send them a friendly reminder with the date and time of the interview as the subject line (i.e. “Interview Reminder Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9pm”). Also make sure you use their time zone, not yours.
  3. For the hour leading up to the interview, research them as much as possible.
    You want to go into the interview as their friend. You should be able to reference various things you find throughout the interview
  4. Give them a call.
    Start with developing rapport by asking them about their day. Then tell them about yourself, remind them why you’re conducting the interview and give them an estimated time for how long the interview will take.
  5. Introduce them with two-three interesting facts to establish their credibility.
    Your listeners/readers need to know why they’re listening/reading. And don’t do that “Tell me about yourself” nonsense. People don’t like talking about themselves and it lends a lot more credibility if you can do it for them.
  6. Start asking the questions.
    While you’re interviewing, keep a conversational tone (just like talking to your friend). They’ll feel more comfortable opening up and giving you the good advice. Also, the most important part about asking a question is listening to their response and reacting to their response. The interview should have a natural flow and not sound like you’re asking them scripted questions.
  7. Conclude the interview by thanking them for their time and reminding listeners/readers to visit their site.
    That person just did you a favor and you need to express your gratitude. Do that by thanking them and sending people to their site.

I prefer to conduct all of my interviews by actually talking to them. The responsibility of a good interviewer is to elicit responses from the interviewee that they couldn’t think of themselves. If you just email them the questions and ask them to fill it out, you’re going to get generic, boring answers. Plus, that’s more work for them.

I use Skype to conduct all of my interviews and Skype Recorder to record the audio. Skype is free, unless you’re calling a phone. I pay about $30/year to be able to call cell phones through Skype. Skype Recorder, on the other hand, costs $29.90.

Then you can get the audio transcribed for $20-$30 (depending on length) through A lot of people post the audio file (with the “Audio Player” plugin by Martin Laine) and transcription to their blogs. We choose to spend a lot more time (about six hours) editing our interviews for our book.

Following Up

Before you publish their interview, make sure you send it to them in an email. Ask them to look it over, make any changes they want and approve it for your site. After all, it’s intended to make them look good.

Once they approve it, publish it on your site and send them another email thanking them once again. If you’re lucky, they’ll promote it through social media and maybe even on their site.

Scientifically Proven?

By using this process, I’ve been able to interview 13 of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. Most of them are people I’ve admired for almost a year. Overall, I’ve conducted about 30 interviews over the last two years… Scientifically proven.

Need help coming up with interesting questions to ask entrepreneurs? There’s 51 of ’em.

P.S. I have four more kick-butt interviews coming to you over the next week or two (Jacob Cass coming to you on Wednesday!). Stay tuned if you want more world-class advice from world-class young entrepreneurs.

Photo by: Dr. Snitch