How To Plan and Conduct Interviews

Among all elicitation techniques, interviews are arguably the most famous and frequently used by Business Analysts. This is a common and simple technique where BAs directly communicate with stakeholders and ask them different questions to obtain valuable information to make informed decisions. 

When conducting an interview, one of the major goals a BA has is to understand the context of the interview. It’s not just merely about gathering requirements but making sure they fully understand the responses of their stakeholders. Having said that, it’s important to know the correct way to plan and conduct interviews so that you can successfully gather the information you need. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in this article. 

Planning Interviews

With interviews, there are two essential planning stages:  

  • Initial planning
  • Detailed planning    

Initial Planning

During the initial planning, you’re trying to understand what you need to learn and how you can get that information. This includes knowing your goal. To help you get a better understanding of that, you should ask yourself the following questions:

    • What’s the point of doing the interview? 
    • What am I trying to learn?
    • Who has that information?        
    • Who can I talk to that can give me the information I’m looking for to achieve my goal? 
    • What type of interview will best help me meet that goal: One-on-one or group?

Detailed Planning

Once you’re done with your initial planning phase, it’s time to focus your attention on detailed planning. To effectively complete this stage, you should ask yourself these questions:

    • What type of questions should I ask: Structured or unstructured?
    • What questions should I ask?
    • How much time do I need to allocate?   
    • How much time do the stakeholders have to commit to getting the information I’m looking for?
    • Should I record the interview?
    • Where should I conduct the interview?   

On the Day of the Interview

Now that you’re done with the preliminary initial and detailed planning parts, here’s what you need to keep in mind on the day of the interview:

  • Make sure to arrive early. Be there at least 15 minutes before the interview. 
  • Don’t forget to reaffirm your objective. Think about what you’re trying to gain out of your interview.
  • Study the people you’re going to be speaking with. Get familiarized with what they do and other basic profile information.

Conducting the Intervew

For conducting the interview, you can break it up into three different stages:                  

Stage 1 – Gain Rapport         

The first stage is about gaining rapport. This is where you’re building a relationship with your stakeholders. In order to make it easier for you to do that, you should introduce yourself, ask them a few questions about their job, their family, their hobbies, kids, etc. Always remember that you’re doing this to establish a relationship and find some common ground with them. While it may seem frivolous, this is important because creating this type of connection inevitably leads to a comfort level for both interviewer and interviewee which often facilitates better, more open conversation. 

During this stage, you’re also reviewing the objective of your interview and you’re explaining how the results of the interview will be utilized. Aside from that, this is the stage where you get to answer any questions and concerns that they have. It is best practice to do this before starting the real interview to avoid any hesitations from them.  

Stage 2 – Elicit Information              

The second stage is all about eliciting information. Remember the key here is to be conversational. To do that, you need to have a conversation with them, but keep in mind that this shouldn’t be one-sided. By trying to turn it into a conversation, you make it easier for your stakeholders to open up and relate to you. However, if this is something you’re not yet used to, fret not! This is only going to come with practice, so don’t get too bogged down and be too hard on yourself if you’re not there yet. Just do your best and try to have that conversation back and forth and you’ll eventually get the hang of it as you go along. 

Also, don’t forget to stay within the scope. Make sure you stay in line with what you’re trying to gain out of this and what your objective of the interview is. But if ever you find yourself getting off route, just relax and know that it’s okay to experience that and get a little bit caught off guard. Everything happens for a reason and you probably treaded something outside the scope. But that’s okay because perhaps you were destined to explore something that you maybe weren’t aware of. But a lot of times, you just need to take note of it, redirect them, and make sure that you continue forward on the path that you have set for the interview.                     

Some other best practices you should take into account during this stage:

    • Take notes during the interview because you’re not going to remember everything. Or, with the interviewees consent, you can record the interview as well. 
    • Be an active listener and pay attention to what they’re saying. For instance, nod when you agree on something, smile, make eye contact, and make them feel comfortable with your presence.          
    • Don’t forget to ask them questions once they’re done with a talking point. By summing it up and repeating it back to them in your own words, you validate your understanding and get rid of any assumptions and inconsistencies in your notes.
    • Feel free to ask them to illustrate, draw, or demonstrate what they’re talking about if you’re not quite getting it or want to validate your understanding. 
    • Take into consideration and watch for those nonverbal cues as well. You’ll pick up on different things and help give greater context to the words that they’re saying.     
    • Conclude the interview and ask them if there’s anything else you should’ve asked or if there’s something relevant you missed that you’re not aware of and should probably know about.   
    • Ask them as well to recommend other people you should meet with to give you more information and a new perspective.        
    • Summarize everything up after you’re done with all your questions and after you’ve asked those few additional questions.
    • Thank them for their time and provide your contact information in case something comes up or if they think of anything else that might be valuable. 

Stage 3 – After the Interview

Since you have 15 minutes set aside after the interview, you should definitely utilize this time to finalize your notes and record all of your thoughts throughout the document. Apart from that, you could jot down other insights not directly related to some of the questions to help you figure out where your mindset was when you review your notes later on. 

Don’t forget to also send your interviewees a list of follow-up questions and a copy of your notes during the interview to reinforce that much-needed validation and reassurance from them. By doing that, you can not only breathe a huge sigh of relief, but it’s also a great way to remind them of what you spoke about together.

Some Final Thoughts

Among all elicitation techniques, there’s no denying that interviews are commonly used and popular among Business Analysts. This technique helps Business Analysts directly communicate with stakeholders to gather the information that they can use during business analysis. In this regard, it’s very important to know the correct way to go about it so that you can fully understand the context of the interview and successfully gather requirements. 

Learn more about effective elicitation techniques in my course Understand and Elicit Requirements. In this course, we’ll take a deep dive into how you can fully understand requirements for your project, and get to the root of the wants and needs of those you’re trying to help.

Happy learning!

Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide

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