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How to nail SME interviews in 6 steps

For interviewing SMEs, I must put forth some energy to ignite my inner extrovert to get the best information so we can build strong resumes and win more work.


nail the SME interview in 6 steps

To get the most out of your interviews and stack the deck in your favor with clients, follow my six steps for interviewing SMEs.


Step 1: Do Your Homework 

Read existing subject matter material and gather job history and previous resumes. Read the RFQ/RFP so you understand the client’s requirements and duties of their role. Never call an SME without developing a clear list of questions. 


Step 2: Prepare and Over Prepare

If you do your research well, questions should naturally arise, making it easy to develop an outline and get organized before your call. Use the RFP and the proposal outline to help prepare your questions. Make sure you are laser-focused during the interview and respectful of their time – you’re likely dealing with SMEs high in demand. 


Step 3: Schedule Your Interview with Confidence 

There are three things you can do to make you more confident. First, approach your SMEs with 2-3 options for dates and times to schedule. Second, have a set time limit for the interview. And third, provide the SME with some background information on your purpose and overall goals for the call. 


Step 4: Conduct the Interview (And Don’t Stress It) 

Don’t forget you can record the interview, ask questions if you don’t understand something, and schedule follow-up conversations when needed. Come to the interview as prepared as you can be, but also set expectations you may need follow-up conversations to finish the interview process with SMEs. 


Step 5: Follow Up to Fill the Gaps 

You’ll gather additional details after you’ve written your initial content but before the red team. If you don’t feel the win themes are strong enough in your first draft, go back to the SMEs and keep asking why. Use this step to assess what you have and what you still need to strengthen your proposal. 


Step 6: Review and Fine-Tune 

Use your last round of questioning to find the holes, fill in the gaps, and clarify any conflicting information. You can also use this step to validate the accuracy of the design, estimate, and schedule proposed. Your document isn’t complete until your SME has signed off on it. This helps build trust with the SME, but it will ensure that your win themes are well-defined and give you the competitive edge. 


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