This instruction session introduces engineers to the basic skills needed to successfully plan and carry out a client interview. The materials below are CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Perception Checking – Using clarifying statements or open ended questions to make clear your understanding of what the speaker said.
Probing Questions – Using questions to get further information on points that you do not understand.
Open ended questions – Questions that cannot be answered by yes or no.
Speaker: My hometown is Huntsville, IL. It’s a small town near the Mississippi River. It is most notable for the corn fields that are interspersed throughout the town.
Listener: How many people live there? (Probing)
Speaker: Currently 25 people live in town.
Listener: Did I understand correctly that there are 25 individuals in your town, not 2500? (Perception checking)
Speaker: That is correct. There are only 25 people who live there. There are more dogs and cats than people.
Listener: What are the jobs that are available in such a small town? (Open ended question.)
Speaker: Well, the majority of people are either farmers or they travel up to 45 miles to larger towns and cities where there are other jobs.
Using Open Ended Questions as the backbone of your interview structure
Use Active Listening Skills
Have an attitude of attention
Use body language to show attention
Don't interrupt, and make it hard for you to interrupt physically (clicking pens - put them away, squeeze a stress ball; tapping toes, wrap your feet around the chair legs; doodling- put your pen out of sight, squeeze a stress ball.
Take notes if you have any clarifying or probing questions that need to be asked later.
Post interview - confirm your understanding of the design constraints via writing for the client to respond to.