We hope you’re doing good and staying safe!
Today we’re going to be talking about the second most popular (and most misused) research methodologyâinterviews. I’m super excited. Let’s get to it!
** Why the fuss about interviews?
I’m glad you asked. Interviewing is one of the most popular evaluation and information gathering methods in the world. Everyone has interviewed someone in some capacity.
When you apply for a job, the company interviews you to assess your qualifications and fit, you also attend the interview to evaluate the job and organization fit. When reporters want information on an event that occurred, they interview the people that were present to gather accurate and detailed information on the event.
I can go on and on, but the point is this: interviewing is a tested and trusted way of gathering information, alongside evaluating and understanding people/events/activitiesâlittle wonder why Researchers & Product Professionals have come to love and trust it.
As Product Professionals, we conduct user interviews to understand user needs, identify pain-points, to understand how users interact with our product and identify opportunities for us to improve the user experience within our platform.
The type of feedback we get from interviews is qualitative in nature and helps us answer the “why” questions as well as understand our user behaviour and the rationale behind their actions. Understanding user behaviour ensures we build the right things and are focusing on what’s really important to our users.
** Before I talk about some of the ways you can step up your interviewing game,
it is important to mention that user interviews is not always the best method for gathering information. Abusing interviews as a methodology can provide you with misleading insights that might lead you to make the wrong decisions.
In Interviewing Users (https://portigal.com/Books/interviewing-users/) , Steve Portigal stated that the three situations where interviewing users can be useful are: * Identifying new opportunities (before you know what to build) * Refining design hypotheses (when you have some idea on what will be built), and * Redesigning and relaunching existing products & services (when you have a history in the marketplace)
Conducting interviews outside these three contexts can be problematic & yield inaccurate insights.
Another vital thing to consider before deciding to conduct interviews is that interview favours depth over size. What this means is that instead of trying to get brief feedback from many users, your focus will be on getting very detailed feedback from few users without sacrificing quality.
** Cool stuff. So how can I up my interviewing game?
First of all, create a flipping plan. DO NOT DO ANY FORM OF RESEARCH WITHOUT HAVING A PLAN. It is so so important. The plan doesn’t need to be super refined or extensive, it just needs to include the most important things–the things you know, the questions that need to be answered by the end of the project, and all the things you want to learn about. We’ll leave this at that.
But plans aside, here are some cool tips that can help you level up in your interviewing game: 1 . Spend your first 5-10 minutes building rapport with your participant: Spend some time getting to know them as humans because it affects the quality of feedback you’ll get from them.
Listen more than you speak: Shutting up is a very valuable skill & it’s amazing that not a lot of people know how to do it. Being slow to speak is really valuable in interviewing.
Get comfortable with silence: Silence is not always a bad thing when interviewing. Let the silence linger for a bit & yes it might be awkward, but a little awkwardness wouldn’t kill anyone.
Listen beyond words: Listening transcends shutting up. You need to be very observant & listen to the body language (emotions) of your participant.
Aim to make the interview more conversational than interrogatory: You can do this by building rapport, asking them for stories, and being intentional about making the flow of questions natural.
Embrace your participant’s worldview: Throw your worldview out the window. You can do this by using their language, neglecting your biases and embracing their perspective to things.
Throw your expertise out the window: The entire point of conducting the interview is to learn from people. Exerting your expertise can be detrimental to your research study, so be careful.
Resist the urge to shalaye: If your participant contradicts him/herself or isn’t doing things the way you expect them to, resist the urge to call them out or jump in and correct them. It’s not necessary. Probe deeper on these contradictions but not in an accusatory manner.
Assume nothing: Do not imply anything. If they didn’t say it, then they didn’t say it. If you think they are hinting at it, then explicitly ask. Do not imply meanings or explanations.
** We have one more tip though,
and it is: practice. Practice interviewing. Take videos of yourself and watch the videos to identify places where you can improve on. I hate doing this because it is so cringey, but it has made me a better researcher.
Being conscious of your biases and intentional about keeping yourself on the middle ground is also very important. Everyone is biased towards something and against another, some biases are unconscious and others are conscious. Biases are not inherently bad, but they can be dangerous when conducting research of any form.
There is a common saying that ** “if you torture the data, it will tell you what you want it to.”
Same goes for interviews, especially when you are prejudiced towards a particular response or thing. Research plans are actually useful for identifying and documenting biases. So (again) please create research plans, you really need them. Abeg.
Another way to check biases is by treating the interview as an adventure with a visible path but an unknown destination. So while I am conscious of the things I want to learn from the interviews, I am not fixated on it. Instead, I approach interviews with some curiosity into the person and what they care about.
** There’s a lot more to interviewing, but this is a solid starting point for people who want to learn more about user interviews or refresh their memory. Intentionally working with these tips will definitely up your interviewing game.
In the next issue, we’ll be showing you guys how to survey like a pro. In the meantime, check out this article by Erika Hall called Research Questions are not Interview Questions (https://medium.com/mule-design/research-questions-are-not-interview-questions-7f90602eb533) . Happy Interviewing
With Love & Yam, Lade and Dumss ð