As instructional designers, we need to have a broad-based toolkit, one that allows us to complete widely varying tasks from designing effective interactive e-learning modules to writing targeted needs analysis questions. As a training consulting specialist in needs analysis projects, I’m often asked for interview best practices. This is one of those techniques IDs need to have in our toolkits, but that we don’t often use. Here are a few interview basics that I’ve found helpful
Create a protocol guide for the interview: Even if you aren’t conducting a structured interview, it’s useful to have an idea of where you’d like the interview to go. Your protocol document should identify the logistics of the interview (interviewees’ names, telephone numbers, etc.), your plan for the structure of the interview, and a list of possible questions.
- In Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Manager, Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, recommend that the interview should have atrajectory, which might look something like this: introduce yourself, introduce the project, build rapport, evoke stories, explore emotions, question statements, thank and wrap up.
- Useactive listening techniques, such as recapping, paraphrasing, and note taking. These techniques will help you stay focused on the interviewee’s responses.
- Use questions that encourage respondents to tell you stories, rather than offer yes/no answers. People’s stories reflect their view of the world, even if what they tell you isn’t objectively “true,” and will often help you uncover new and unusual perspectives on an issue. Some ideas for generating stories during training consulting interviews include the following:
- Use the “critical incident technique.” Often used by organizational development researchers, this technique encourages interviewees to talk about specific examples, rather than their general opinions about a situation.
- Use behavioral questions: for example, “Tell me about a time when…” or “What do you do when…” or “Help me understand more about…”
- Ask “why” rather than “what” questions.
- The least useful questions are generally hypothetical questions: “What would you do in this situation?” Instead, have interviewees focus on what they actually have done in the past.
- Watch for inconsistencies in what people say. Again, Liedtka and Ogilvie suggest that interviewees should be particularly aware of words that seem out of place, and to recognize that “a larger part of the message is transmitted through tone of voice, pitch/rhythm, gestures, facial expressions, and body language.” Pay particular attention to the incongruences you notice between interviewees’ words and body language—what might they reveal about the interviewee’s perceptions of the situation?
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