The five major steps in interview preparation are explained below. These steps include a range of activities from gathering basic background material to deciding who to interview.
Read Background Material
Read and understand as much background information about the interviewees and their organization as possible. This material can often be obtained on the corporate Web site, from a current annual report, a corporate newsletter, or any publications sent out to explain the organization to the public. Check the Internet for any corporate information such as that in Standard and Poor’s.
As you read through this material, be particularly sensitive to the language the organizational members use in describing themselves and their organization. What you are trying to do is build up a common vocabulary that will eventually enable you to phrase interview questions in a way that is understandable to your interviewee. Another benefit of researching your organization is to maximize the time you spend in interviews; without such preparation you may waste time asking general background questions.
Establish Interviewing Objectives
Use the background information you gathered as well as your own experience to establish interview objectives. There should be four to six key areas concerning HCI, information processing, and decision-making behavior about which you will want to ask questions. These areas include HCI concerns (the usefulness and usability of the system; how it fits physical aspects; how it suits a user’s cognitive capabilities, whether it is engaging or aesthetically pleasing; and whether using the system is rewarded with desired consequences), information sources, information formats, decision-making frequency, qualities of information, and decision-making style.
Decide Whom to Interview
When deciding whom to interview, include key people at all levels who will be affected by the system in some manner. Strive for balance so that as many users’ needs are addressed as possible. Your organizational contact will also have some ideas about whom should be interviewed.
Prepare the Interviewee
Prepare the person to be interviewed by calling ahead or sending an email message and allowing the interviewee time to think about the interview. If you are doing an in-depth interview, it is permissible to email your questions ahead of time to allow your interviewee time to think over his or her responses. Because there are many objectives to fulfill in the interview (including building trust and observing the workplace), however, interviews should typically be conducted in person and not via email. Interviews should be kept to 45 minutes or an hour at the most. No matter how much your interviewees seem to want to extend the interview beyond this limit, remember that when they spend time with you, they are not doing their work. If interviews go over an hour, it is likely that the interviewees will resent the intrusion, whether or not they articulate their resentment.
Decide on Questions Types and Structure
Write questions to cover the key areas of HCI and decision making that you discovered when you ascertained interview objectives. Proper questioning techniques are the heart of interviewing. Questions have some basic forms you need to know. The two basic question types are open-ended and closed. Each question type can accomplish something a little different from the other, and each has benefits and drawbacks. You need to think about the effect each question type will have.
It is possible to structure your interview in three different patterns: a pyramid structure, a funnel structure, or a diamond structure. Each is appropriate under different conditions and serves a different function, and each one is discussed later in this chapter.
- Interviewing in Information Gathering
- Five Steps in Interview Preparation
- Open-Ended and Closed Type Interview Questions
- Arranging Interview Questions in a Logical Sequence
- Joint Application Design (JAD) in Information Gathering
- Using Questionnaires in Information Gathering
- Writing Questions for Questionnaires
- Using Scales in Questionnaires
- Designing and Administering the Questionnaires