Published on December 6, 2013
is e is w h T w it o o h d The Art of Interviewing
s s i we hi T w it ho do How to conduct immersive user interviews that are rich, insightful and enjoyable.
s s i we hi T w it ho do About this document The Art of Interviewing is for you if you want: This will help you: 1.To undertake interviews that give you rich insight into what people actually do, not just what they say they do • 2.A framework which helps you plan, conduct and capture interviews • 3.To learn new interview techniques Give your interviewees an experience they enjoy that helps them be more open about their lives Gain insights with the potential to transform products, services and businesses
s s i we hi T w it ho do Some examples We’re interested in the differences between what people think they do and what they actually do. The differences often reveal hidden needs that can inspire new products, services and businesses. We do this by: Psychology Ethnography 1. Immersing ourselves in people’s lives 2. Making observations through great conversations 3. Asking them to reflect on their own behaviour Design thinking We draw upon diverse disciplines, from psychology to design in order to craft interviews that create that balance and reveal transformative insights.
s s i we hi T w it ho do Some examples Inspiring a new cleaning product Inspiring a smoking cessation service Clean, clean, clean. Inch by inch. Hands protected all the time. The ups and downs of quitting up close. We observed someone with OCD scrub their toilet spotless with a toothbrush while talking to them about their thought processes for cleaning. This revealed insights that inspired a toilet brush product with a disposable head, that makes cleaning more hygienic. We followed in the footsteps of nicotine addicts which helped us understand the ups and downs of kicking a habit. We observed and collected all the little tricks and tactics people use when trying give up. Rather than invent a new type of patch, these findings directly contributed to a service proposition which had a higher success rate than using traditional gum or patches alone.
What makes our interviews different? We don’t just ask people questions, we get under the skin of their lives. We hang out in their home, often for hours at a time. They take us to their favourite places. We shop with them. We meet their mates. Our interviews give people: 1. Freedom to be themselves 2. A space to tell their story 3. A chance to articulate their met and unmet needs An artful interviewer blends intuition with process, focus with flexibility and poise with warmth. s s i we hi T w it ho do What people say about being interviewed by us: “It was my first time I’d had this kind of experience: talking about my likes, life and reflections with Sense Worldwide was amazing! It helped me learn more about myself.” “It was nice to know I’d contributed to something... otherwise you’d end up just answering questions with your thoughts and words vanishing into the ether.”
Firstly, here’s how we describe an interview: A conversation A chance to see the world from someone else’s perspective A sensorial experience A negotiation of ideas s s i we hi T w it ho do
To us, a successful interview is: Immersive & observational Investigative & clue-driven Supportive & reflective s s i we hi T w it ho do
So, how do we do it? Before Plan: laying the groundwork for a great interview During Conduct: undertaking immersive interviews that deliver gamechanging insights After Capture: reflect, synthesise and share key learnings s s i we hi T w it ho do
s s i we hi T w it ho do Contents page In the following sections we describe each stage of the interview process in detail. Before Plan: laying the groundwork for a great interview Who Page 14 What Page 18 When & where Page 22 How Page 26 During Conduct: undertaking immersive interviews Interview etiquette Managing the interview Interview techniques After Capture: reflect, synthesise and share key insights Summarising the interview Page 67 Page 34 Page 40 Page 55
s s i we hi T w it ho do The interview starts before the interview
Before the interview Before During After s s i we hi T w it ho do Laying the groundwork for the interview with thorough planning
Before the interview Consider the ‘hygiene’ factors Consider: 1. Who (interviewees / client / colleagues) 2. What (activities / approach) 3. When & Where (timing / logistics) 4. How (capturing the interview) s s i we hi T w it ho do
s s i we hi T w it ho do 1. Who • Recruiting the right people • Getting the right number of people in an interview • Getting agreement (colleagues and client) around the interview approach
Before the interview Recruit the right person for the interview s s i we hi T w it ho do Getting the right person is critical in getting the insights and inspiration you need. As well as looking for people who represent the ‘typical’ users of a product or service, consider more extreme users and even rejectors. For example when we investigated blister products we spoke to a special forces soldier, and got a very detailed opinion about the improvements that could be made. (Soldiers actually use burns plasters, which are bigger – this led to a breakthrough for Johnson & Johnson) Photo via Flickr courtesy of włodi
s s i we hi T w it ho do Before the interview Get everyone aligned Fellow interviewers If you are going to share the interview with another interviewer, discuss and agree how you’ll work together before the interview. For example in longer interviews will you swap who leads and who records? And remember, always agree on a protocol for timekeeping and when and how the supporting interviewer will ask supporting questions. Clients Sometimes we invite clients to join us in interviews. It’s important that they’re well prepared and know what to expect. A pre-interview briefing session ensures that all the team understand what will happen in the interview. It also clarifies the roles they’ll play (i.e. observer, with time to ask occasional questions).
Before the interview Get the right balance of people in an interview s s i we hi T w it ho do If too many people attend an in-home interview it can disrupt the balance and make the interviewee feel uncomfortable. We’ve found that the best mix of people for revealing conversations is two interviewers (one person leading and one person recording) for one interviewee. We would recommend no more than four people on the interviewer team at any interview, including translators if required.
s s i we hi T w it ho do 2. What Defining the objectives and how to approach it: • Agreeing on the areas to investigate in the interview • Designing the Discussion Guide • Developing a pre-task for interviewees
Before the interview Decide on the areas you want to investigate Developing a map of the key areas you want to investigate provides the foundations for the interview Discussion Guide and gets everyone aligned. This map: • is shaped around the project brief • pulls together the team’s hunches and hypotheses • builds upon insights from contextual research This map was developed to explore the future of fridge dispensing. s s i we hi T w it ho do
Before the interview Develop a Discussion Guide s s i we hi T w it ho do Translate the areas you want to explore into a Discussion Guide. A Discussion Guide helps an interview flow freely and helps the interviewer cover similar areas in each interview, so responses can be compared. They can include: • an introduction to the project • interview etiquette (for clients) • overview page (with timings) • an equipment list (including a confidentiality agreement) • intro / warm up questions for interviewee • specific interview questions • home tour • visit to relevant shops • related games or design activities • discussion with relatives / friends
Before the interview Consider asking interviewees to complete a pre-task s s i we hi T w it ho do A pre-task includes activities which help the interviewee get into interview mode before the interview. It also helps the interviewers get a better sense of the interviewee, their lives, style and values. The pre-task can be delivered in many forms: we’ve sent interviewees a box which they fill with objects that they feel represent them, as well as simple workbooks or a digital collage which include some ‘get to know you questions’. You could even ask them if they’re happy to share links to their social media profiles (e.g. Pinterest / Flickr) You can ask interviewees to send you a photo or scan of their pre-task before you visit them or simply use it as a guide for the first part of the interview.
s s i we hi T w it ho do 3. When and where • • Timing and logistics Building rapport with the interviewee
Before the interview Call in advance Giving the person you’re interviewing a call before you visit them will build rapport and help alleviate any tensions. Consider: • Providing an overview of the project • Giving information about the interview • Checking if they’ve participated in research before • Checking that you have permission from the home-owner to be in their home • • • • • • Checking permission if you want to look around their home (we call this a home-tour) Confirm who’s attending Confirm the time Swap contact and location details Check parking arrangements Confirm they’re happy to give you permission to record the interview s s i we hi T w it ho do
Before the interview Call in advance Be open about clients • If clients are attending the interview with you where possible always try be open about who they are and what they want to get out of the interview. • Some clients want their company to remain anonymous to avoid any potential interview bias. But, most importantly establish rapport: • Have a general conversation with them to get to know them • Ask them questions that to help you design the interview • Ask them if they have any questions s s i we hi T w it ho do
s s i we hi T w it ho do Before the interview Put yourself in the interviewees shoes “I was incredibly nervous before my interview, but when I met the team interviewing me they immediately put me at ease” Interviewee, New York Remember, it’s your job as the interviewer to help the interviewee feel relaxed. Always try and put yourself in their shoes to understand what they’re thinking and feeling.
s s i we hi T w it ho do 4. How • • Equipment for recording Tools for capturing key points, including: - Capture sheets - Written notes - Sketchnotes
Before the interview Pull together your recording equipment s s i we hi T w it ho do Cameras - 2 x still, 1 x video • Dictaphones x 2 (1 as a back-up) • 16gb (minimum) memory cards x 3 (sometimes they corrupt) • Camera charger • Tripod x 1 • Spare batteries • Adapter plugs (if you’re working in different countries) • A panoramic app on your smartphone (great photos for reports) • Handheld scanner (if you want to scan textures, fabrics or documents) • It sounds obvious, but make sure all SD cards are empty and all batteries are charged before you set-off.
Before the interview Design tools, such as capture sheets Capture sheets can be designed to support activities in the interview. Design them to be fun and creative and the interviewee will love filling them in – it helps them feel a sense of ownership and control. Capture sheets are useful when mapping out journeys, experiences, hierarchies, ideas and networks.
Examples of simple capture sheets Keep capture sheets simple. Always include a space for the interviewee’s name and the date of the interview. This helps when referring to them after the interview.
Before the interview Plan your note-taking to highlight key insights 1. Put a vertical margin down the right side of your page 2. Make your notes to the left of the line 3. After each change of topic, idea, whatever, draw a horizontal line all the way across the page 4. Later (minutes or hours) - write "metanotes" on the right to summarise key points, flag actions, anything you like
Before the interview Consider capturing the interview through images Sketchnotes are a great way to capture interviews. You can complement traditional written note with pictures, or design the layout of your words and pictures to fully represent the flow of the conversation. Sketchnotes also help you digest some of the discussions and pull out key points as you go along. Your ‘sketchnote’ probably won’t be as neat as this, but you get the idea! The Sketchnote Handbook is a great resource. You can also find examples of Sketchnotes on http://sketchnotearmy.com/
During the interview s s i we hi T w it ho do Before This section focuses on 3 key areas: During After 1. Interview etiquette 2. Managing the interview 3. Interview techniques
Interview etiquette 1. Be considerate 2. Make the interviewee feel like the expert 3. Observe acutely 4. The 80/20 rule 5. Let go and enjoy the ride!
Interview etiquette 1. Be considerate Interviewees are inviting you into their homes and their lives. • Respect their space • Keep your phone on silent • Ask if you want to use anything (e.g. bathroom / plug socket for charging) • Observe their customs
Interview etiquette 2. Make the interviewee the expert You’re asking them for their opinions, so make your interviewee feel knowledgeable and valued. They’ll feel more comfortable and likely to open up to your questions.
Interview etiquette 3. Observe acutely Take note of your interviewee’s behaviour and environment: • What are they doing and saying? • What/who are they interacting with? Why? • What visual and verbal clues are they providing? • Compare what you’ve heard with what you’re seeing. Take note of any discrepancies – they might hold great insight! Tip: use their environment to provoke relevant questions: “I see you have a big collection of...”
Interview etiquette 4. the 80/20 rule Every conversation has its own rhythm and energy. ‘Read’ the person to determine when you should prompt them further. Aim to speak around 20% of the time. A chatty interviewee (may need periodic prompting to stay on-track) A reserved interviewee (may need more prompting) Interviewer Interviewer Interviewee Interviewee
Key interview principles 5. Let go and enjoy the ride! Think of the interview as a casual conversation with a friend – just relax and enjoy the experience. If you relaxed and enjoying it – so will they!
Managing the interview
Create an environment for intimacy Smile and make the interviewee feel comfortable, it will help you engage in deeper conversations.
Explore their lives
Start WIDE with the stuff they know. Use the pre-task if you have one Keep it relevant to the key themes in the interview
it helps them... relax feel in control feel like an expert open up
Then go deep. Find out about their world. What they think and feel. What they live for. What makes them tick.
Use your Discussion Guide It will help you focus and control the interview
But be flexible It’s called a ‘guide’ for a reason – use it to help you explore the unknown. Sometimes the best insights from interviews come from unexpected places.
If an interview is going off-track, it’s ok to say... “Can we move on to the next theme” “This is really interesting. Let’s move on to another topic” “I just want to take a moment to go back to when you mentioned...” Remember, your interviewee is relying on you - they want to know that what they’re telling you is relevant and helpful. So give them encouragement and feedback!
Weave together • • • • • Conversations Topics Themes Observations Insights
Create mental models When doing an interview, imagine the conversation visually. Try using use colour or shapes to help you remember what you’ve discussed / want to discuss, or when making connections between insights.
Respect their space • • Give them time to reflect on questions Don’t interrupt
Keep an eye on the time • Interesting interviews can easily overrun. • If you do run over time check with the interviewee if they’re happy to continue. • If you don’t have a watch put your Smartphone on aeroplane mode. Photo via Flickr courtesy of riggzy
Pan for the nuggets • It’s often the stuff we didn’t know we were looking for... • Follow your own hunches about what’s important or respond to threads of conversations that surprise you. Photo via Flickr courtesy of dotpolka
And perhaps most importantly, dig deep. You want insights into latent needs and about the emotions which drive behaviour. Probing and prompting can help.
Techniques: Getting the most out of your interview
Getting the most out of your interview Three techniques you can use to gain the insight you need. 1. Asking open questions (the foundation of an immersive interview which aids revealing conversations) 2. Reflective listening (to check-back and clarify) 3. The 5 why’s (to dig deep and gain insight into behaviour)
1. Asking open questions For revealing conversations Open questions are the essence of a qualitative interview. They lead to more descriptive answers and encourage the interviewee to communicate their opinions and feelings. To get open answers don’t ask questions a Magic 8 ball could answer. Closed questions prompt ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Open questions can be used to ask 'thinking' and 'feeling' questions - to get to emotions/ non rational as well as rational stuff.
1. Asking open questions For revealing conversations Open question: What was your experience of school? Possible response: “Really positive. I have very fond memories and actually regularly meet up with old classmates. Actually, my favourite part was being captain of the football team because...” Closed question: Did you enjoy school? Possible response: “Yes.”
1. Asking open questions Examples of open and closed questions Open questions: vs Closed questions: How are you finding the house hunting process? Do you find a house buying process challenging? How do you feel about buying your first home? Do you feel stressed about buying your first home? Where and how do you find inspiration? Are you inspired by other artists?
Reflection point: What parts of your life could you use open questioning to get more in-depth responses? (for example: with your partner, parents or friends)
2. Reflective listening To clarify what you’ve heard Reflective listening is great for clarifying conversations and helping the interviewee reflect on whether what they’ve said has been heard and interpreted correctly. It’s a great way to build rapport and initiate more intimate conversations by demonstrating to the interviewee that you’re truly listening and trying to understand them.
2. Reflective listening To clarify what you’ve heard 1. When that happens it makes me feel excited and scared. That’s because I’m not confident when it comes to going on dates because of my past experience. 2. So, let me just make sure I’ve heard you right and understand? What I heard was.... Message Interviewee 3. Yeah, that’s right. Let me give you a specific example... Interviewer No Judgement! The most important aspect of reflective listening
Reflection point: When would reflective listening be useful in other areas of your life?
3: Digging deeper: the 5 why’s For insight into behavioural drivers By asking ‘why’ after each question you can dig down into the emotional reasons behind a behaviour or action. “I’ve started going to the gym” Why? Action / behaviour “Because I want to lose weight” “If I lose weight I’ll look better” “Looking better will help me regain my confidence” Why? Why? Why? “I’m going to wedding - he’ll be there and I want to show him what he’s missing” Why? “He hurt me and I need to regain my own identity” Emotional reason
3. Digging deeper: the 5 why’s Here’s how we might ask why... *Tip: Tone of voice is critical - these questions work best if you sound interested and intrigued “Tell me more...” “May I ask why you think/believe that?” “I sense there’s more you want to say on that” “Can I ask why that’s important to you?” “Why do you feel that way?” “I’d like to understand more about your perspective...”
Reflection point: What other ways can you ask why?
After the interview Before During After Get into the habit of immediately reflecting on the interview journey. This will help you synthesise key insights and clarify your thinking.
Verbally record your thoughts straight after the interview If you don’t have a dictaphone try using a recording app on your phone.
Fill out a summary capture sheet and collate all supporting documents Sitting down immediately after an interview with colleagues and clients is a great way to align around the key insights, or raise key questions.
Bedtime stories Write and send an email summary to your team and the client The freshest insight comes straight after the interview. A summary email will help you distill the key points and highlight any patterns with your colleagues. This is especially useful if they’re are doing interviews in parallel in a different location.
Practicing what you’ve learnt
Exercise 1: ask, respond, observe A game to help you try out what you’ve learnt so far 1. Get into groups of 3 or more. Each person has a different role: ‘asker’, ‘responder’, ‘observer’. 2. Pick a subject area. The ‘asker’ interviews the ‘responder’ questions about the subject area, using open questions, the 5-whys and reflective listening techniques . A R A O R O A R A Subject: Health R O 3. The interview should last no longer than 3 to 5 minutes. When finished, the ‘observer’ gives feedback to the ‘asker’ and the ‘responder’ 4. Following feedback everyone swaps roles and repeats the exercise. A A R O O R O
Exercise 1: ask, respond, observe Example subject areas You can choose anything for a subject area - if you’re stuck for inspiration look at news for inspiration. *Tip: keep the subject area broad to begin with! Health Finance Fashion Food Education Politics Alcohol Technology Social media Death Sleep Work
Exercise 2: the everyday interview Practice by ‘interviewing’ cabbies, hairdressers and shopkeepers!
Exercise 3: Practice sketchnoting Try Sketchnoting to TED talks - it’ll help you become more confident
Using what you learn elsewhere s s i we hi T w it ho do Put simply, interviewing is about building rapport and gaining trust. We use the interviewing techniques in this document in other areas of our business too, including: • • • • Job interviews (to find out quickly if the candidate is the right fit for us) Working with new clients (building rapport and getting to know them) Delivering and reviewing projects internally (using open questions and reflective listening) Expert interviews (to quickly get them to open up) So, whether you’re a researcher, journalist or business person you could use what you’ve learnt elsewhere in your life.
Thanks. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Ⓒ2013 Sense Worldwide Sense Worldwide 68/70 Wardour Street London W1F 0TB United Kingdom T +44 (0)20 7025 6040 F +44 (0)20 7025 6041 E firstname.lastname@example.org W www.senseworldwide.com
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