Whether we're talking to executives or subject-matter experts, we use a version of these nine phrases to help every interview go smoothly.
1. “Thank you.”
The subject is giving up their precious time - usually during the workday, and usually as a favor. The least the interviewer can do is say thanks.
2. “I’m recording this interview.”
Recording conversations - rather than taking copious notes - helps maximize interview efficiency. Revealing this to the subject is simply the polite thing to do. Sometimes, it may also be legally necessary.
It’s easy to explain in a way that makes the subject feel comfortable:
“Just to let you know, I’m recording the call so we can talk freely and I don’t have to take a lot of notes.”
We’ve never had anyone push back.
3. “Do you know why we’re talking today?”
Before an interviewer dives in to their main questions, the subject needs to understand the conversation's context.
In the midst of a busy workday, the subject may not remember why they scheduled time to talk - and that’s if they were even told in the first place. The person giving the interview is not always the person who sets it up.
If the above question feels a too blunt, here’s a softer version:
“Would it be helpful if I give you some background about why we’re talking today?”
Subjects always say yes.
4. “Think of this as a conversation.”
The subject may think of an interview as a rigid set of questions that require formal answers. Framing the conversation as an authentic two-way dialogue empowers the subject to be more genuine.
5. “How would you introduce yourself to someone you just met at a party?”
This warm-up question gives the interviewer - and the eventual audience - a jargon-free description of what the subject does.
This context can be the foundation for the rest of the interview.
6. “Is there anything else you wanted or expected to talk about today?”
This closing question can go one of three ways:
- The subject reiterates something they mentioned earlier. In this case, they get another chance to frame an issue that is significant to them.
- The subject raises something new and unexpected, thus offering a more complete view of what matters to them. If the new topic is important enough, the interviewer can extend the conversation or schedule another one to fully explore it.
- The interviewer confirms that the subject has nothing more to add.
7. “If I have any additional questions, do you mind if I follow up via email?”
Client conversations don’t have to end when your phone call does.
8. “My job is to make you look good.”
Subjects who have given media interviews may initially feel a bit guarded. After all, journalists and interviewees do not always share the same goals.
This phrase assures subjects that the interviewer's objectives are friendly.
9 “You can approve and change your quotes.”
Giving subjects more control can help them to relax. Removing the pressure to be perfect allows a freer exchange of ideas.