Why interviewing is important in consulting and how to prep
Before Audienz, I was a journalist who loved finding and telling unexpected stories. I interviewed politicians, business leaders, experts, and professionals in a variety of fields. And it was so much fun. Now at Audienz, I still interview, but it’s a little different.
As a writer in the B2B consulting world, I ask questions to figure out the stories for the content I create—who’s the audience, what’s the main message, what tone are we using, what’s our goal, etc. But it’s been a while since I’ve conducted interviews for an article.
I missed it. So I sat down with two Audienz interviewing experts—writer Jackie Micucci and principal Kathryn Courtney—to get their top tips about asking the right questions. They had such good advice that I decided to create a two-part blog series. Part 1 is about why interviewing is valuable for consulting and how to prep for a successful interview. Part 2 will focus on conducting the interview and how to improve.
I used to associate interviewing with a reporter getting a story from a source. With a background at a local newspaper and then in magazine editorial, Jackie has thousands of these interviews under her belt. Then she moved to marketing.
“You use the same skills,” she says. But instead of talking to a source, she interviewed clients who needed a deliverable. “It’s still interviewing, but it’s a different type of interview.”
Kathryn says most of her interviewing experience has been with Audienz, though she says in retrospect she has probably been interviewing in different capacities without realizing it for longer. At Audienz, she uses interviews in three ways: 1) as a product, 2) as a consulting tool, and 3) as a social tool.
As a product, she explains, “We go out and interview experts or try to gather information or get insight from the field.” We help our clients validate their assumptions or explore other solutions.
Using interviewing for consulting is about information gathering as well as “driving alignment and creating connections,” she says. She also uses interviews to drive the conversation and help clients come to smart conclusions.
As a social tool, Kathryn says, “I see interviewing as a way to open up, to allow people to show themselves to you. I really like the way it sets a social tone, even in a personal or a professional environment.”
Preparing for an Interview:
Preparing for an interview can help “reduce the potential for panic,” says Kathryn.
She has a rich list of go-to questions mixed together by category with the imperative questions bolded. She plans to never hit them all, but she has them ready just in case.
“My hope is that I don’t use it because ideally, I want to be listening to what they say,” she explains. By being an active listener, she can pivot the conversation and questions as necessary.
Jackie also recommends preparing questions—starting with a journalist’s basics: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Beyond questions, she advises doing your homework by diving into background material and learning about the company and the people in the room.
“That’s what LinkedIn is for,” she says.
Jackie adds that it’s important to understand the client—their role, their needs, how they fit into the organization, and how you can help them.
“You want to understand where they’re coming from as opposed to just the background of the company or what they do,” she says.
Other prep tips Jackie suggests include using a project intake form, validating information rather than relying on Google, avoiding yes or no questions—unless you have a follow-up, and being mindful of the client’s time by focusing on questions only they can answer.
“[Preparing for an interview] doesn’t take as long as people think,” she says. “It will make you feel so much better and have a better interview.”
Feeling ready for your interview? We’ve got the tips to ensure it goes off without a hitch! Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn what our experts have to say about conducting a great interview and their advice for becoming an expert interviewer.