5 interview tips, not from a user researcher

Even if it’s not your official job title, most of us will (should!) find ourselves carrying out some user research throughout a piece of work.

Having recently ran a round of interviews with service users and being far from an expert in the field, I thought it would be worth sharing some tips on the technique I learnt along the way.

Know what you want to know

As you’ve chosen to carry out interviews, you hopefully have an idea of what information you want to get from your participant. I found it useful to highlight what I wanted to know  and then prepare some questions that would lead to the right answers with the right level of detail.

If the topic is particularly challenging or difficult, you might want to write these questions in a variety of different styles. This may help you get answers, whilst taking into account the mood of the conversation and feelings of the participant.

Hit record

Writing or typing notes can really disrupt the flow of an interview. What’s worse is trying to take notes and listen to the participant at the same time, especially if you’re like me and useless at multitasking.

I found recording the interviews to be a massive help. It meant I could fully focus on the participant and then write up my notes afterwards. It also surprised me to hear little details I failed to pick up on until I listened back to the interview.

Here are some bonus tips on recording interviews:

  • No special equipment needed. Most smartphones should do the trick
  • Be upfront. Ask permission and explain your reasons at the start
  • Face the phone down. Calls and notifications can distract you and the participant
  • Start off easy. A few opening questions at the start can put the participant at ease. They often quickly forget you’re even recording

Let it flow

To improve the flow of the interview, slot your questions into the conversation rather than making it apparent you are reading off a set list. This is made easier by carefully preparing the order of your questions so they naturally flow from one topic to another.

Don’t interrupt

This is short and sweet, don’t interrupt your participant. You’re there to hear what they have to say, so ensure they have finished speaking before moving onto the next question.

The post interview chat

I’m proud of this one. Over the course of the interviews, I very quickly learnt to never stop recording until the the participants had left the table/room. Quite often, the most useful information and unexpected answers came while chatting after the more ‘formal’ interview questioning had finished.

Forget it’s even an interview

All of these tips should work towards making sure your participant feels comfortable with you and relaxed with the questioning. To get the most detailed and honest answers, you want your participant to forget they are even being interviewed.

By doing this, you’ve got the answers you want, useful information you weren’t expecting and importantly, built a positive relationship with someone who can hopefully help again further along the process.