How to nail remote user interviews?

We have included a checklist to download, so that you rock the user interviews to come!

2020 has taught us a lot of skills and how to get creative at home. Doing sports by lifting books instead of weights at the gym, becoming 5 star chefs instead of going out to restaurants, more learning how to play the guitar, drawing, knitting or birthdays by zoom have become the reality. But when it comes to our jobs do we master all we need to do through a computer?

We had to learn about doing workshops online, mastering new apps, getting the flow of design sprints when we can’t have everyone in the room and one of the most difficult ones… engaging in people during user interviews.

Interviews are already quite hard, you are not sure if the person is comfortable to answer, you don’t know if they are telling you the truth, conversation can switch to another topic which is not of your interest… Many things can go wrong, let alone managing all these with bad wifi, the neighbours’ kids yelling around or just engaging in a conversation with someone you don’t know and who is not in front of you.

Because we don’t want you to fail when interviewing people we bring you the guide to do a good remote interview! Let’s face it, we still have a few months before things go back to normal, and even when they do, many things will still be online because we are somehow used to it.

In order to have the best interviews when being remote you have to focus on 3 phases:

  • Before the interview

  • During the interview

  • After the interview

These 3 phases will come with specific actions that you should do to set the best context and get the best insights. So now, without further due, let’s dive into the subject!

Things to prepare before the interview

  1. Select your physical space. Remember to choose a quiet space and where you can’t be disturbed. You will not be able to control everything, but this is something you can keep in your hands.

  2. Have the right digital equipment. Test your camera, microphone and speaker before the call. If one of these is not working, do you have a back-up? If it is really bad, it is better to postpone the interview explaining why.

  3. Use a schedule calendar. Any calendar app with reminders is the best solution, this way you will not forget about the calls and you will know at what time you have all your appointments. You can also schedule some preparation time before the call.

  4. Confirm the remote interview with the interviewee. Double check with your users that they can attend one day before. Also, make sure everyone is aligned in the date and time-zone.

  5. Make sure you have support to take notes. You can use a digital notepad, but I prefer to do it in a notebook. The typing sound can make the person in front of you anxious, because they will feel evaluated. In a paper you can also write faster.

Things to think about during the interview

  1. Be human and keep the personal touch. Interviewing can be awkward for the person interviewed, so make sure you engage and create a link. Some tips for this are: - Have both the cameras on, it is important to see people's expressions. - Keep your intonation and body language positive and engaging as if you were in the interview room physically.

  2. Explain the agenda and the context. Even if you have said it in an email, it is nice to open with this information.

  3. Show them you are interested in them. It’s important to start your customer interview by getting to know your customer a little bit. This helps you see their interaction with your product as a part of their bigger picture. Asking an open-ended question like “tell me about yourself” allows them to describe more than just their job title, what they do on the weekends, or how they use your product.

  4. Let people have time to talk and express themselves. You want to get your customer to tell you their stories. Stories are personal, real, and specific. Let them talk and ask “why” to deep dive on specific items.

How wrap up after the interview

Right after the interview, write down your overall feeling of the interview and any details on the reactions of your interviewee (were they happy, nervous…). This is important for when you are going to analyze the results because you might not remember them anymore.

We hope this guide helps you set up your interview sessions. To make it even easier, download our Remote Interview Checklist and have it with you for your next sessions.

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