CommonLounge Archive

Conducting an Interview

December 30, 2017

User input is essential to make a great product. But you can’t just sit down and have a conversation. Interviews have a specific purpose: to get accurate information.

Your goal is to get answers to the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why? Deepen your understanding and fill in all the gaps in your knowledge.

You’ll want to follow the four best practices to make sure you get that information.

Best practices

  1. Don’t talk about your solution: The point of the interview is not to sell your solution to the customer. The point is to understand your customer. So focus on them and their needs.
  2. Don’t bring up your own opinions: You don’t want to influence them in any way, or else the results will be useless. Just ask questions and let them talk. Don’t worry if they go off-topic and talk for long periods of time. That’s often where the most valuable insights lie.
  3. Create a comfortable environment: Don’t jump straight into hard questions. Warm them up with general questions first. Show that you’re interested in them and not just using them to get information. Make sure that you don’t react negatively to anything they say. When they give negative feedback about your product, stay neutral and judgment-free. If you get upset or start defending your product, they won’t talk anymore.
  4. Don’t force the conversation: Just guide it. Again, don’t worry if the interviewee gets off track. That’s a sign that they have other pressing needs that your questions didn’t cover. Keep your ears open for new insights that they may bring to the table.

If at a loss for what to say, use the magic phrase: “That’s interesting. Tell me more!”

Good questions and bad questions

If you choose the wrong questions, you may introduce bias into your interview. Misleading or hard-to-understand questions will also produce faulty data. Remember: Good questions lead to good products.

Follow these five best practices to make good questions.

  1. Always ask open-ended questions: Open-ended questions can’t be answered quickly or with a yes or no. Open ended questions allow people to talk endlessly and go on tangents, which is what you want.
  2. Don’t ask binary questions: Binary questions are ones that can be answered with a yes or no. (“Have you done X?”) These limit your interviewee’s response and should be avoided.
  3. Don’t ask hypothetical questions: Since hypothetical questions aren’t based on reality, people tend to become illogical when answering. Stick to reality and you’ll get more reliable answers.
  4. Don’t ask leading questions: Leading questions influence a person to answer a certain way. They’re pointless, since you already know the answer. For example: “Would you like to save money?” Of course they do. If you don’t give them all of the details, they will always say yes.
  5. Don’t ask questions that make them lie. Uncomfortable questions like “Have you ever cheated on a test?” will almost always produce unreliable answers. And if you ask them if they like your design, most people will say yes just to flatter you. Don’t go there.

You can turn bad questions into good questions like:

“If you have to book a reservation for dinner, how would you do it?”

“If you could save 25% on car insurance, but [downside], would you do it?”

Again, if at a loss for words, use the magic phrase: “That’s interesting. Tell me more!”

(“Your product sucks!” “That’s interesting. Tell me more!”)

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