I can go long stretches without doing interviews. When I jump back into them I’m always a little rusty. I have a little game I play that helps me get into the groove.
I score each conversation with a simple point system. 2 negative points and 2 plus points. Easy to remember while I’m listening. Then I score the recording afterward to see if I’m improving between interviews.
-1 You pitch, you lose.
If you try and push a feature or start talking about your product then the conversation becomes a sales call and stops being an interview.
An interview is about the customer, not your product.
The moment you start pitching a feature, people will gravitate towards telling you what you want to hear. If you have nothing to sell, people don’t know what you want to hear, so they can’t lie to you.
-1 Don’t Interrupt People
You can’t interrupt people. Ever.
This is where I always lose the most points.
When someone stops talking, the best thing to do is count to five in your head. I’ve never made it past 3. The idea is to create a mildly uncomfortable vacuum that elicits valuable follow-up information.
Conversely, when people are talking and you have an important question. Make a note of it so that you remember to come back to it later.
+1 Talk Specifics
Hypotheticals are toxic shiny objects. They sound great and mean nothing. People are terrible at predicting their own behaviour. Instead, you can only talk about specifics that have happened in the past. It’s much harder for people to lie about specifics.
When you start talking about what someone might do, people want to tell you the *correct* answer. Regardless of how true it is. It’s not that people want to lie to you, it’s just what we do in polite conversation. It’s the path of least resistance.
Every time you shut down a vague, hypothetical statement and redirect it to something specific in the past you get a point.
+1 Summarise And Then Ask
When you can’t interrupt people, it can be hard to get a wandering conversation back on track.
One way to do this is to summarise the important bits of what people said when they stop talking. This re-aligns the conversation to what’s important to you. It also helps them reflect on what they said, and clarifies any misunderstandings.
Every time you summarise what someone says before proceeding, you get a point.
Much bullshit can be avoided by not having anything to sell and only talking specifics.