Skip to content

Interview Guide

← Resources

By Brad Hunt

Posted in Research

Interview Limitations

Functional Fixedness — people’s thinking is limited to existing structures
  • People understand their world within a structure
  • What we usually get: adding new features, fixing problems, transferring features we’ve seen elsewhere. Seldom a total redesign.
  • People cannot imagine hypothetical situations
  • People are happy to make something up
What people do not know about themselves
  • Predicting what they would do, like, or want
  • Estimating the last time they did something
  • Estimating how often they do things
  • How much they like things on an absolute scale
What people do know about themselves
  • What they do
  • How they do things
  • Their opinions about their current activities
  • Their complaints about their current activities
  • How much they like one thing compared with another
Easy mistakes to make
  • It’s a mistake to share your opinions — People want to please and interviewer opinions shape what people tell them.
  • It’s a mistake to do all the talking — The interviewer should aim for 20-25% of total interview word count.
  • They fail to follow up interviewee remarks — When inspiration fails, “Can you tell me more about that?”

Interview Outline

Start with high level questions and small talk about others
  • What does your work organization do?
  • What kinds of people work there?
  • How does your family start the day?
Then move to easy, factual questions
  • Who usually gets dinner ready?
  • Can you recall a restaurant meal with your family? Who was there?
Task, roles and details of tasks
  • What do you do first?
  • What do you do when the deadline is soon?
  • Does anything slow you down?
  • What do you do when you have this trouble?
Walk through tasks “yesterday” or most recently
  • Where were you? What were you working on?
  • Who else was there?
  • What happened next?
  • Can you describe how you select music in your car?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you did that?
  • Have you ever tried that and it didn’t work?
  • Was that what you expected?
  • Does that problem happen often?
  • What does “system” mean here?
  • I am hearing you say…
Ending the Interview
  • Do you have any suggestions for us, or last thoughts?
  • Yes, everything we have discussed is confidential. We won’t reveal your identity to anyone.
  • Thank you for talking with me. Here’s my card if you want to get in touch.
  • Avoid describing details of your plan or design
  • Avoid asking about features; ask about the underlying need that would make a feature useful
  • Avoid leading people with possible answers.

Interview Tactics

  1. Repetition/Rephrase
  2. Get Behind Behavior — “What were you expecting to see?”
  3. Ask for an Example
  4. Go Step by Step
  5. Question a term or concept (even if you think you know it) — “What do you mean by ___?”
  6. Summarize what was said and draw out a conclusion or concept — “So you’re saying that ___?”
  7. Question pronoun references
  8. Check for deviant cases
  9. Go for generalization — “Do you often ___?” — this is mostly to identify deviant cases, people don’t reliably know how to generalize many behaviors.
  10. Clarify expectations — “You expected ___ and got ___?”
  11. Clarify activity
  12. Clarity metaphors
  13. Ask for a story