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Cross-examining your interview skills

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This presentation considers how interviewers can hone their interviewing skills for better design research. It covers what makes a good interview, what you can do before and during an interview to …

This presentation considers how interviewers can hone their interviewing skills for better design research. It covers what makes a good interview, what you can do before and during an interview to make it more successful and skills to develop. This presentation was initially given at Oz-IA 2010 in Sydney, Australia by Mia Northrop.

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  • 1. Cross-examining your interview skills Mia Northrop Oz-IA/2010 8-9 October 2010
  • 2. The worst interview ever Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 2
  • 3. The worst interview ever Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 3
  • 4. The worst interviewer ever Hard questions first Random sequence of questions Closed questions No follow up on responses Overloaded questions Negative body language Boring questions No rapport building Answers own questions Talks more than listens 5 Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd.
  • 5. Quality criteria for an interview • The extent of spontaneous, rich, specific, and relevant answers from the interviewee. • The shorter the interviewer’s questions and the longer the interviewee’s answers, the better. • The degree to which the interviewer follows up and clarifies the meanings of relevant aspects of the answers. • The ideal interview is to a large extent interpreted throughout the interview. • The interviewer attempts to verify his or her interpretations of the subject’s answers in the course of the interview. • The interview is self-communicating: it is a story contained in itself that hardly requires much extra descriptions and explanations. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 6 Source: Steinar Kvale, Interviews, An introduction to qualitative research interviewing, Sage Publications Inc, 1996 , pp 145
  • 6. Garbage in, garbage out • Every person counts. • Good research is dependent on a total stranger’s cooperation and participation. • You have the control to make or break the interview. • Bad interviews result in lost opportunities. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 8
  • 7. Before the interview
  • 8. Immersion in the problem space To write an appropriate script, be insightful in the interview and nimble with your questioning you need domain knowledge. Jargon Industry Previous research Competitor findings offering How its being promoted Product, site, Assumptions system Past, successes, failures Sacred cows Business goals Value proposition Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 10
  • 9. Immersion in the problem space To ascertain where to probe further, what is trivial, what is not worth discussing because there are best practices you need functional knowledge: Vocabulary Interactions Processes Messaging Design Concepts patterns Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 11
  • 10. People • Skip the org chart to find influential stakeholders. • who interacts with the most departments? • who serves as a touchpoint with people from varying levels of seniority? • who do coworkers admire and listen to? • Prepare the interviewees and set their expectations. • what it will be like to participate • priming activities • importance of their specific participation • Don’t leave it entirely to the recruitment firm or client to craft the message. • Plan for even exposure of participant types in the interview schedule. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 12
  • 11. Presence • Ideally select a meeting place that has some relevance to the topic or the participant. • Consider the physical layout, atmosphere, potential distractions and social warmth of meeting room or lab settings. • Get mirrors, video & audio equipment and in-room observers out of the participant’s field of vision. • Plan your attire. • Make them comfortable: emulate the participant if necessary, think about accessories that mark belief, status, hierarchy. • Make yourself credible. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 13
  • 12. Question phrasing • Experiment with the question phrasing until each question elicits the type of response you intend. • Expand the vocabulary you use to ask questions. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 14
  • 13. Open ended questions Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 15
  • 14. Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation Domain remembering interpreting problem finding creating judging Critical memorising translating solving structure thinking combining resolving processes recognising describing applying info separating Who Explain Show Contrast Create Select What Outline Use Categorise Imagine Decide Useful When Distinguish Complete Identify Design Prioritise question verbs Where Compare Classify Separate Propose Rate How Define Relate Diagram Invent Discuss Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 16 Sources: http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/researchskills/dalton.htm ; http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic69.htm
  • 15. Question types • Sequence: “Walk me through a typical day” “Then what do you do next?” • Specific examples: “What did you make for dinner last night?” • Peer, product, activity comparison: “Do other cashiers do it this way?” • Projection: “What do you think it will be like in 5 years time?” • Look back: “How did it use to be?” • Quantity: “How many of your customers fall into that category?” • Changes over time: “How are things different than they were 3 years ago?” • Suggestive opinion: “Some people have really negative feelings about X. What are you feelings about them?” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 17 Source: Steve Portigal http://www.uie.com/events/virtual_seminars/questions/
  • 16. Question types • Clarification: “And when you say X, you mean X, right?“ • Hypothetical: “What would you do if X happened?” • Reflective: “When you say X it seems that you’re XYZ. Tell me more about that.” • Other viewpoint comparison: “What do you think younger people might think about it?” • Native language: Point at object “What do you call that X?” • Exhaustive list: “Write down everything that comes to mind when you think of X.” • Relationships, organisational structure: “Draw the different groups, the size of each group and whether they overlap.” • Naïve outsider perspective: “How would you explain this to someone who had never heard of this/done this before?” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 18 Source: Steve Portigal http://www.uie.com/events/virtual_seminars/questions/
  • 17. Stupid questions Yes there is such a thing. Don’t ask a double barrelled question. Don’t overload your question. Don’t include trigger words in your question. Don’t put remarks into your question or lead. Don’t include hyperbole in your question. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 19 Image: http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-questionor-is-there/question-778917/?link=ibaf&imgurl=http://images.sodahead.com/polls/ 000778917/polls_stupid_20question_4545_241275_poll_xlarge.jpeg
  • 18. Sequencing and flow Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 20
  • 19. Spoken style • Read questions aloud when you’re writing them to check for awkward spoken language. • If multiple moderators, make sure all of you can read it aloud comfortably and it suits all of your styles. • Check the duration. • Know the script off by heart so can follow the natural path the conversation takes but get full coverage of your questions. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 21
  • 20. During the interview
  • 21. Be in the moment • Quieten your mind and gain clearer perception: enter the room in a state of mindfulness. • Let go of expectations about the results and pre-conceptions of the interviewee. • Remind yourself of the big picture of what you’re trying to achieve with this research study to get out of the details and see the forest for the trees. • Expect the unexpected: be nimble, flexible in questions and answers. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 23
  • 22. Build rapport • Identify yourself while giving a firm handshake. • Make small talk. • Thank them for participating. • Ask what they’ve been told by recruiter/client about the session. • Correct misconceptions and set expectations to get them in the right frame of mind. • Acknowledge their potential nervousness. • Reinforce not testing them, focusing on the design. • Remind them about confidentiality. • Mention adherence to time and allowing them to discontinue. • If not the designer and/or not from the client company, advise the participant. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 24
  • 23. Build rapport • Be confident, respectful not deferential. • Smile. • Maintain eye contact. • Read them and size them up to see if they need coddling, flattering or a business-like approach to get them comfortable and secure. • Start sensing their communication style, cultural, personality differences, vocabulary and reflect it back, match their energy level. • Don’t take notes: maintain eye contact and establish a connection. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 25
  • 24. Control your body language • Alert erect body with an open posture, full frontal to person, lean in • Expressive gestures within the frame of your body • Welcoming facial expressions, nod, smile, no yawns • Eye contact • Don’t swivel to face the exit, window or clock: mirror them • Talk with an even tone, consistent volume and moderate pace, don’t whisper Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 26 Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2008/06/23/GA2008062301669.html?sid=ST2008062201741
  • 25. Read their body language • Read their non-verbals to see not only how they are reacting to you but also to measure their reaction to the subject matter. • Note: • Loudness of speech • Tone • Animation • Pace • Inflections • Gestures • Posture • Facial expression Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 27
  • 26. Ten emotion heuristics Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 28 Source: Eva de Lera and Muriel Garreta-Domingo http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.13464
  • 27. Listen actively • Don’t project. • Listen as a receiver, not as a critic. • Don’t think about the next question while they’re responding. • Don’t interrupt. • Endure silence. • Minimise your own vocals. • Don’t talk about yourself or add your own opinion. • Don’t over-direct and overwhelm. • Show empathy. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 29 Source: http://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/listening.html
  • 28. Laddering technique Attributes Consequences Core Values Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 30 Source: Michael Hawley http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2009/07/laddering-a-research-interview-technique-for-uncovering-core-values.php
  • 29. Laddering technique Attributes Consequences Core Values Q: “Why did you select Q: “Why is the heavy Q: “Why is it important those wedding card stock important to that the wedding be more invitations?” you?” formal and substantial?” A: “I really liked the A: “It makes the event A: “My friends had traditional design and seem more formal and fabulous weddings and I the heavy card stock.” substantial.” really want something on par with them.” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 31 Source: Michael Hawley http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2009/07/laddering-a-research-interview-technique-for-uncovering-core-values.php
  • 30. Keep it together • Beware the temptation to synthesise and build a model on the fly: remain open to their model and don’t expose yours. • Don’t finish sentences or fill in blanks. Make them find the label. • Don’t fake attention or tune out boring people. Pay attention and work harder for the nuggets. • Eliminate or ignore environmental distractions. • Don’t get distracted from what participants say by their style, mannerisms, clothing, accents or voice quality. • Don’t allow a participant’s status to have any bearing on how well you listen to them. • Admit ignorance. You’re not playing the role of the expert, they are. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 32
  • 31. When interviews go wrong
  • 32. The Chatterbox • Take control of the situation • Signal your transitions • If wandering, smoothly interrupt and redirect back to the question or the point of the interview • If something strong but irrelevant to say, then draw out, close and direct back • Use their name to interrupt them Examples • “Let’s move on to the next question...” • “Paul, I’d love to hear more but I also want to know about...” • “Sue, that’s an interesting story but let’s get back to the question...” • “Earlier you mentioned...” • “I’d like to go back to...” • “Park that thought and tell me more about...” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 34
  • 33. The Clam • Check body language: smile, nod, welcoming facial expressions • Try asking more general social questions to loosen them, avoid closed questions, try rephrasing • Follow up on responses and ask them to expand • Be patient and endure silence • Reiterate confidentiality, anonymity, ‘off the record’ • Advise them there are no right or wrong answers • Remind them you’re not the designer, don’t work at the company • Reinforce their specific contribution is important • Ask whether recording equipment is an issue • Explain what you need and ask for what you want Example • “I really need a quote summing up your feelings on this issue.” • “ Help me understand more about X.” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 35
  • 34. The Pollyanna • Reinforce there are no right or wrong answers, you’re looking for honest feelings to know what’s good and bad for other future users • Remind them its confidential and anonymous • Reinforce that you’re not the designer • Play Devil’s Advocate: drop your objective demeanour and be a little assertive • Mention you’re surprised at the discrepancy between the participant’s performance and their comments • Ask for specific reasons behind their feelings Examples • “It’s interesting that you say you like it because it seemed to give you a lot of difficulty” • “I’m surprised by your answer. Are you sure you don’t consider this unusually difficult to perform?” • “Don’t you think the firm is doing you a disservice with this design? You’re the first person who has felt this way.” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 36
  • 35. The Unraveller • Decide when you’ll intervene in unsuccessful attempts: after a certain number, after a certain amount of time, participant distress • Help immediately if they are struggling with something that you have sufficient data about • Reinforce there are no right or wrong answers • Check body language: smile, nod, welcoming facial expressions • Reiterate confidentiality, anonymity, ‘off the record’ • Use their name to get their attention and make eye contact • Offer them a glass of water and give them time to pull themselves together • Put your notebook and recording equipment away for an informal chat and they may think its over and relax Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 37
  • 36. The Distracted and Evasive • Request that they turn off the distracting technology, close the door or restrain the kids and pets • Reinforce that you have X questions to cover or X time left and you need their full concentration to get through the material • Remind them that they’re being paid for their time and you need their full concentration • Break down questions into simple parts • Ask clear and targeted questions • Use your instinct to gauge whether they have an agenda, unable to answer questions or mind is simply elsewhere Example • “Sam, we’re offering $100 for these sessions because your contribution is really important, so we really need your full concentration for the remaining 30 minutes. Can the kids play elsewhere?” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 38
  • 37. The Attitude Problem • Gauge whether interviewee has an attitude because: • don’t recognise a problem that needs to be solved • not concerned about the problem • don’t wish to change or have things change • don’t believe change is possible • are skeptical about your contribution to the project • Reinforce goal and process of research and why they have been selected to participate • Keep calm, stay polite and ask if something is wrong and address their attitude upfront Examples • “What would you say the main problems are?” • “How does this problem affect your work?” • “What would it be like for you if that happened?” • “What do you think of the firm’s commitment to create this change?” Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 39
  • 38. The next interview
  • 39. A great interviewer... • Is interested in other people and is curious about what makes them tick. • Is invested in the research. • Listens, observes and understands people. • Is comfortable in front of all sorts of people. • Has integrity. • Has a good memory and note taking skills. • Has a long attention span. • Is comfortable with silence. • Has self-control and self-awareness. • Can be assertive when required. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 41
  • 40. Review and evolve • Be a participant. • Ask for feedback from colleagues or get a mentor. • Video record yourself, observe, note weaknesses, • Consciously practice one technique at each session. • When you have an ineffective interview, assess what went wrong. • Keep up with the UX and qualitative research literature. Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 42
  • 41. If you remember 3 things... Commercial in Confidence. © 2010 Symplicit Pty Ltd. 43
  • 42. Thank you! Mia Northrop Lead Experience Designer mia@symplicit.com.au Twitter: mNorthrop Symplicit Pty Ltd Level 1, Suite 103, 757 Bourke St Docklands, VIC 3008 Ph 03 9670 3385 www.symplicit.com.au

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