3️⃣How to conduct an interview well

👋🏼 Introduction

A good interview feels like an honest conversation with a friend. A good interviewer is able to make participants feel comfortable, smoothly move from topic to topic, get clear impressions on the hypotheses, and do it in a way that participants don’t feel like they are being interrogated or tested.

There are many small things you can do to ensure a smooth interview. We’ve listed some of them here. Get comfortable with one at a time rather than trying to master all of them together.

1️⃣ Be a good host


Imagine you’re the participant — you’re meeting new people, in a new location, to try a product you’re not familiar with, and you’ll be under observation. Throughout the interview, keep the customer’s comfort in mind. Use body language to make yourself friendlier.

“We are testing the product, not you”

Participants will tend to feel that they are the ones being tested. Clarify that any response they feel naturally is what we’re looking for. We’re seeking their help to test the product.

Warm up to the core questions

Don’t jump into the tasks and specifics right away. Build context slowly by asking 2-3 warmup questions. For example, if it’s a fintech app, ask about the apps they use, what they use them for, when was the last time they opened it for, etc.

2️⃣ Mindset

Dry run the interview with a friend or colleague.

Look for bumpy transitions. Look for where the prototype needs polish or fixing. Notice misses in copy or stitching of the prototype. Tweak and repeat as needed.

Don’t be dependent on the script.

Write a script to find a flow. Memorize it, but don’t rely on it entirely during the interview. If you keep looking at the script through the interview, it’s going to feel forced and you won’t be able to focus on what the user is saying. You’ll need all your attention to drive the conversations toward insights.

Be authentically curious.

When you’re truly fascinated by the user’s reactions and thoughts, you will be more engaged and so will the user.

Keep it personal and concrete

Help users avoid hypotheticals and generalisations. Users might use phrases like “People think...“, “Everyone wants…“, “I always…”. When this happens, gently ask for recent, personal examples from their life.

Don’t pitch

The goal of a research study is to observe and listen to users’ frank feedback — not to convince them your product is wonderful as is.

3️⃣ Questions

Ask “Who/What/Where/When/Why/How?” questions

Don’t ask leading questions like “Would you…” “Do you…” “Is it…”. These will tend to predetermine the answers for the user or get you a “yes/no” answer.

Ask broken questions and make room for silence.

Allow your speech to trail off before you finish a question. Silence encourages the customer to talk without creating any bias.

Don’t help your users too much.

When users get stuck, try not to jump in immediately or guide them towards the answer. It’s okay to observe users figure out the prototype on their own. It’s the moment of truth, it’s where the insight lies. Give them a minute, and try to understand what they are thinking with questions like:

  • “What is this? What is it for?”

  • “What do you think of that?”

  • “What do you expect that will do?”

  • “So, what goes through your mind as you look at this?”

  • “What are you looking for?”

  • “What would you do next? Why?”

Answer questions with questions

Users will inevitably ask questions about the product. When this happens, gently reflect them back by asking questions like, “How do you think that would work? What else might you try? How might you get assistance to figure this out?”

4️⃣ Further reading

From ‘Sprint’: The Five-Act Interview

Sprint: Friday

How to Build Better Rapport For Better Research Interviews

Get better data from user studies: 16 interviewing tips

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