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a SME disturbed by the dumb questions a writer is asking on a Zoom

Quick Tip: Don’t ask dumb questions

Some people say, “There’s so such thing as a dumb question.”

I disagree. Here’s why.

Say you’ve lined up an interview with the VP of R&D for a white paper you’re working on.

There are plenty of dumb questions you could ask a busy manager like that.

Dumb question #1: Anything way too open-ended

—”What does the company do?”

Check the website and get a clue.

—”What does your team do?”

If their team has a common business name like HR, IT, Marketing, R&D, Sales, or Technical Support, it’s obvious what they do.

Dumb question #2: Anything you can easily find on the web

—”How long have you been with the company?”

Check LinkedIn before your interview.

—”When was the company founded?”

Check About Us on their website.

—”Where are you located?”

Unless LinkedIn doesn’t show the answer, you might get away with this for an ice-breaker.

But most SMEs don’t have a lot of time for chitchat.

Dumb question #3: Any basic info you should know before your interview

—”How do you spell your name?”

—”What’s your job title there?”

—”What’s your e-mail?”

—”What time zone are you in?”

The worst thing you can do with an SME is waste their time. So don’t do it.

Do your homework before your interview starts. If you can’t find the answers online, ask the white paper sponsor.

There’s a corollary here, too.

One of the highest compliments any SME can pay is to say, “That’s a good question.”

That means you asked them about something they’re still struggling to work out.

Perhaps some trade-off that not everyone notices.

Or some contradiction at the heart of the company.

If they say that once or twice during your interview, you’re doing very well.


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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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