1. Have realistic expectations
If you are a perfectionist like me, you will have a set of unrealistic expectation of how the interview will go. You will expect the result of the interview will be perfect, get excellent insights, you'll be the most fantastic interviewer, and all the interviewees are going to be incredible.
But not all interview will go well. Maybe it will go ugly, or you don't have any worth recorded answers. But that's ok. You will get better as you practice.
2. Do your research & prepare the questions.
If this is your first time too, it's critical to always do research on how to do user interview. You want to ask the right questions and knowing the best approach in doing a user interview. And remember not to do this only before you start your first interview, but to do it continuously to perfecting your skill in interviewing. Before I started, I had a chance to watch a video on How to Conduct a User Interview from The Belvista Studios, which was very useful.
3. Record the interview
By doing the interview online, it has allowed us to easily record the session which you can refer back later. As I had to do the interview alone and If you are like me, I can't write and talk at the same time. I find it very useful to record the interview so I can focus on the conversation and able to ask deeper questions based on their answers.
And if I write as I listen, I won't be able to analyse their responses and connecting the dots to reveal more insights. Remember to also ask permission to your user at the beginning of the interview. 'Would it be ok if I record this interview..?'. As additional padding, I usually include it in the initial email invitation just so they know what will they get themselves into.
4. Share the reasons why you are doing the interview
Your interviewee has generously spared some time of their day to be interviewed, they deserved to know why you are doing the interview and how their contribution is valuable to your work. Always share the reasons why you are doing it, they will be appreciative of it, and they might be more collaborative as well.
5. Some of the interviewees won't be as friendly as you'd imagine, do not take it personally.
One or some of the interviewee won't always be nice. Even though they had voluntarily agreed to do the interviewed, they may have a change of heart once you start asking the questions. One of my interviewees became passive-aggressive after I got into the 3rd or 4th of questions.
Still not sure why, knowing that my questions were not offensive at all, it was very generic. When that happened to me, I took it very personally. But after a while, I realised that It had nothing to do with me, and I had to learn not to take it personally.
6. It's ok to iterate your list of questions after each interview
When I first jump into the video call to interview, I tried hard to stick to the questions I had prepared. However, I quickly learnt that some of the questions I had didn't work. Iterating the questions can help you avoid asking the same ones that you know wouldn't work. When I first draft my questions on a Word Doc, I felt like they were great questions. But each time I finished an interview, I felt like I didn't get the answer I wanted. It's also good to check out this follow up questions technique that might be useful during the interview.
So I had to iterate the questions again and again. But, it's not like you iterate and everything went well. I still did not get the answers I wanted. But you don't want to keep sticking to the original answers if you think it doesn't work, you have to have the confidence to change them.
7. Design your questions with the problem in mind
One of the things I have learnt from my colleague was that we need to use the questions as a tool to debunk our hypothesis of the problem. We want to have open-ended questions and at the same time proving if the problem is true or false.
8. Most of the users don't know what they want, so asking them 'what would you do' often didn't go much elsewhere
While doing the user interview, I was also reading the book design for how people learn. And I realised that interviewing what they remember about the content or training wouldn't take me anywhere, but asking them their natural behaviour or experience in specific event or situation that is relevant to the topic I am researching, leads me to better insights.
I find asking them what do they think it should be doesn't lead me anywhere. But asking the end-user about a story when a specific situation happened to them, what did they do, what makes them successful in doing it lead me to better insights.
9. Thank your interviewee
Send the interviewee a follow up thank you email. Like any interview you had in your life, it's always nice to be appreciated by the person you had an interview with. You also will never know if you will ever need something from them again down the line.