It might surprise you to know that one of the fastest and easiest ways to become an expert in your industry is to interview those who have that status. Over time, as your audience gets to know you, that status will be transferred to you, whether you have the educational background or not. Published in the book: How To Position Yourself As An Expert In Any Industry.)

This was my experience many years ago, when I became the sole columnist for a new ezine: It is also an effective strategy for writing articles and books.

Before you begin, it is critical to research the company and/or product. There is nothing worse than going into an interview knowing nothing about the person. If they realize you have not done your homework, you are likely to encounter contempt and you could lose the interview entirely.

It is important to know your audience as well. Whom do you want to reach? What is the main message? What do you want to get across?

To flesh out a story, make use of press releases, white papers and information you can get from the interviewee’s Web Site. These sources will help you get an idea of what the company does and how to form your questions.

Note: Letting the information tell the story is a mistake. Ignore industry hype, as well.

Still, in many cases, you will be unable to test the methods the interviewee is discussing. Time, money constraints or lack of technical knowledge could prevent you from exploring the subject in greater depth. If in doubt, consult another expert to verify the claims, if possible.

Interview Sources

One of the best sources for people to interview is Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can get access to a wide variety of experts that you can talk to, by phone, or email. Another couple of resources you could use are LinkedIn and Facebook. Other resources are: Radio Television Interview Report, Free Publicity and PR Marketer.

Technical Information

When recording an interview, there are several inexpensive and simple options. One option is to have a dedicated phone line or high-quality Internet phone service for making your calls. Get a RadioShack Mini Telephone Recording Device. It plugs into the handset and cord. It comes with a mini jack that you can attach to a recording device. From there, you can record the conversation.

If you do not have a dedicated phone line, I recommend Skype and the Pamela application for recording the conversation. Be aware that this technique can have limitations, depending on the time of day and the type of Internet connection you have. If the interview is only for the purposes of transcription, that will make a huge difference. If you want to use it for multiple users, the quality could be questionable.

A third option is to use Skype in combination with the MP3 Skype Recorder. When you use this recorder, make sure you set the bit rate to 128 and mono, for the best recording quality.

For a headset, I recommend the Gamecom 1 headset from Plantronics. Among other things, it has a boom mike with a foam piece over the microphone to filter out booms, pops and hissing noises.

After the interview, you might want to edit it a bit. Audacity is good for this and is a free program.

Interviewing Methods

There are two methods that I recommend. One is to interview the person over the phone; the other is to interview them by email. Both have their pros and cons.

For telephone interviews, make sure you have all your questions written down so you can refer to them over the course of the interview. Nothing is worse than losing your train of thought, then not being able to find your way back.

When possible, I recommend that you stick to your list, which allows for digressions and surprises. You will find that you can record most of what you want in 20-30 minutes. Be aware that some interviews can turn into marathons of 60 minutes or more (which are a real pain to transcribe).

Also, be aware that some interviewees love the sound of their own voice and when they are interviewed they want to tell you EVERYTHING, whether you want to hear it or not. In this case, having pre-formed questions is necessary to keep them on track. You might also need to interrupt them, as well.

The email interview is excellent for two reasons. It allows the interviewee to think about their responses and to compose a well thought-out answer. Often, the writing is very clear and you can use it without the need to edit it.

The other reason for using the email interview is if you are short on time. All you have to do is to compose a message to the interviewee with the questions you want to ask, and send it off. It is that simple.

The major downside is waiting for the response, which could take time. Sometimes it helps to let the interviewee know that you have a deadline. Another downside is losing the spontaneity of a live interview, where often the unexpected takes place and something magical can happen. If a “red flag” pops up in an interview, pursue it. You never know where it will lead.

Additional Notes

When working with interviewees, I like to go over the questions you want to ask beforehand. The interviewee can give some thought to what they would like to say. This can help make the interview go smoothly. (Some interviewers disagree with this approach and prefer to ask the questions live.)

Spend time talking with your subject before the interview if possible, getting to know them. Genuine friendliness, interest and compassion works wonders. It relaxes both you and your subject and creates an open atmosphere where the interview is likely to flow well. If you come across as someone who can be trusted, you are likely to get material that might have been difficult or impossible to obtain under other circumstances.
Initially, learning how to interview people can be challenging due to being nervous, unsure of yourself, etc.

Fortunately, many people are quite receptive if you tell them you are new to the process or are nervous, etc. Eventually you will become more comfortable with the process and the words will flow naturally.

When you want to record an interview, always let the interviewee know in advance that you are planning to tape the call. Never tape a call without permission; that can have potentially serious consequences later. If necessary, ask for written permission. Consent on tape has always been enough.

When interviewing, learn how to ask the hard questions. It is important to discern the real facts, not what the information is on a white paper (otherwise known as hype).

Be open to the unexpected. Sometimes it will yield unsuspected dividends. Let your enthusiasm show. Nobody wants to listen to a dry interview.


There are several approaches here. The obvious one is to do it yourself, though that can be time intensive. A 20-minute interview could take up to an hour to transcribe.

If time is short I would outsource it. One idea is to post a job on elance or VWorker. I found one resource on elance and my cost was $69.65 for two 45-minute interviews. Another source is the Warrior Forum. Check out the Warriors for Hire section. You can probably find some great deals there.

Sample Interview Questions

Here is a sample list of questions that I use (usually no more than 10 questions):

[SIZE=4]Opening Questions

Can you give us some background on your company?

How did you get started?

What made you decide _______________?

What is the most important thing that you want to share today?

Can you give us a quick overview of what we will be learning about today?

What need did you see that was not being fulfilled and how did you address that issue?

During the Interview, use Questions Like These:

For someone starting out in ______________ what advice would you give?

Do you have a favorite method of ___________?

When evaluating a new opportunity, what do you look for?

What is your biggest business regret?

How do you stand out from your competition?

Would you be willing to share a few of your favorite online resources with our audience today?

How did you develop this idea/approach?

How do you control ______________?

What are the benefits to businesses/consumers?

Is there a special secret _____________________ in your industry?

Did you have any mentors? Who inspired you the most?

What tools are necessary in order to succeed as a _______________?

What do you see as the future of _________________?

How will ______________ meet that challenge?

What are the biggest problems with customer support?

Who is making money with your ____________? How is it changing people’s lives?

What are the three top things that your customers want?

What _______________ hurdles did you have to overcome?

What was your most successful idea?

What have you found to be the greatest benefit of marketing ____________ (that you would not want your competitors to know)?

What developmental challenges did you encounter? How did you overcome them?

Closing Questions

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

What advice would you give anyone trying to use the Internet to market goods or services?

Is there anything you would like to add that I have not covered with my questions?

Is there anything you would like to give away to those who have been listening today?

What is your Web Site address? Are there any other points of contact that you would share?

Copyright Nathan Segal 2013