Updated: Sep 9, 2022
Have you ever finished an interview with a client or subject matter expert and felt disappointed with the quality of information that you uncovered? You asked all the questions but don’t have anything that you can use. You might be tempted to blame the interview subject. But try not to. The best way to get to the bottom of things during interviews is to become a better listener. Here’s an example. Sometimes when people are asking questions, they think about the next question before the person has answered the last question. It is important to genuinely hear the answers and if you’re not listening, the person will sense it. Next time you interview someone, use these tips to become a better listener so the other person will open up and provide more helpful information.
Have a specific goal. This will save time and keep you from having a rambling and diluted interview.
Research the person you are going to interview and the topic. The more information you have in advance about the person and the topic, the easier it will be to dig deeper on the most interesting details and avoid asking general questions.
Instead of writing down the questions… do this instead. Writing down all the questions can make the interview feel like an interrogation and can make it harder for you to listen and think. Next time decide on a few issues you want to explore and write a word or two down to remind yourself of those issues.
Go beyond open-ended questions. Even open-ended questions can be answered with only one word, or just the bare facts. If you want juicier answers, ask about their feelings and opinions about the facts, ask them where they got their information, and ask them how they feel about the information that you are discussing.
Give people time to think. When people are thinking about how to answer questions, they might be silent. Don’t try to fill the void with words, just let them think.
Ask follow-up questions when they say something interesting.
Be genuinely interested in their answers and in how they came to those conclusions. Be interested in how they learned what they did and in what mistakes they made on the way.