Interviewing is a powerful way to get information on the problem that your product is trying to solve. Unlike a survey, interviews allow you to have a guided conversation that can lead to a deeper understanding of the problem. Anyone can conduct an interview, but mastering them can be tough. Dium’s 5 key interview tips are to make the interviewee feel like an expert, avoid leading questions, prepare a good line of questions, provide a comfortable environment, and follow the 80/20 rule.
The Interviewee is the Expert
Getting someone to spill their thoughts is no easy task. One trick is to make your interviewee feel like an expert. Make sure you are not using niche jargon and try follow-up questions. Some follow-up questions that can make your interviewee feel like an expert are “I’m confused by ____ can you explain?” or “is that a big deal?” or “can you help me understand ___ better?” Making your interviewee feel like the expert gives them permission to speak their mind and to teach you their perspective on the problem.
No Leading Questions
Avoiding leading questions is key to a successful interview. Leading questions are questions that prompt or encourage the desired answer. The dynamic nature of interviews makes it difficult to maintain the quality of the questions being asked, but bringing prepared questions can help. Remember that this is a conversation, and even though you have prepared questions, you may find out more by going off script and exploring topics that you didn’t prepare for. Don’t forget to have someone give feedback on your questions to check the quality, like in our tips for avoiding leading questions in surveys. Also, recording your interviews will allow you to review your questioning skills and give you the full, unabridged conversation.
Line of Questioning
Having a good line of questions is equally as important as question quality. You are trying to find out if the problem you are solving is big enough to tackle, and if it is a symptom of a bigger problem or the root cause itself. This has to be done gently, or your interviewee will close up and stick to what they believe is the expected script, preventing them from fully explaining their perspective of the problem. A good way to structure your interview questions is around the acronym DECAF. DECAF stands for Details (around the problem/pain), Elapsed Time (of experiencing the problem/pain), Costs (associated with the problem/pain), Actions (done to solve for the problem/pain), Feelings (towards solving the problem/pain, and the problem/pain itself). This order of questioning will allow you to organically unpack the problem, as it starts with casual questions and works down to more personal questions.
Your environment matters; you don’t want an interview to feel like an interrogation. Do everything in your power to make the person you are interviewing feel as comfortable as possible. This can be done through little things like sitting next to them instead of across from them or dressing casually. You can even conduct the interview over coffee or lunch away from an office setting.
You are trying to understand your interviewee’s perspective, so they should be doing most of the talking, NOT you. A good interview should follow the 80/20 rule, in which you are listening 80% of the time and speaking for only 20% of the time. Recording interviews is also a good way to make sure you are abiding by the 80/20 rule.
“I’m not an interviewer. I have conversations.” - Werner Herzog