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Behavioural Interviews

What is it?

A behavioural interview involves a moderator asking questions and a notetaker recording responses from participants. They are largely used to examine the participant’s motivations, thoughts, and their point of view. When conducting interviews, you will also be able to read body language and ask for further clarification when needed.

Purpose of Behavioural Interviews

Behavioural interviews are a great way to capture your participant’s thoughts, perceptions, experiences, and motivations based on what they say. When taking notes you will want to identify

  • What was memorable to the participant
  • Motivations
  • Triggers that led to the decisions that were made
  • Senses: what the participant thought, heard, felt, saw, smelt, said
  • What the participant struggled with (pain points)
  • Successes
  • Themes and patterns
  • Quotes and anecdotal stories
  • Body language

Plan your Interviews

You will need to prepare a script with the different questions you want to ask and estimate how long you think the interview will last. When writing your interview script, here are some helpful tips:

  • Have clear roles and responsibilities for everyone. Each member participating in design research will have specific roles and responsibilities.
  • Explain why you are doing the interview. Introduce yourself and the team prior to starting the interview, explain the purpose of the interview, and what you plan to do with the insights that are collected.
  • Ask unbiased questions. Avoid leading questions. A good interviewer will focus on what the participant wants to express rather than leading, imposing or implying certain views onto the interviewee.
  • Use the script as a guide. Having a script should only be used to help guide the conversation when necessary. A guide can help you cover all the areas necessary within the limited amount of time you have with the participant.
  • Watch your time. You typically want to keep your interviews within an hour. It can be difficult for you and the interviewee to stay focused for long periods of time.
  • Leave room for follow up questions. This gives you the opportunity to ask follow up questions and uncover insights that you may have forgotten to ask about.

Create an Interview Script

When designing questions to ask, think what information you need to learn to answer your research questions and goal.

There are several types of questions that can be asked during behavioural interviews, it entirely depends on the situation and what you are seeking to get out of the interviews.

Here’s some pointers on how to ask good questions during design interviews

  • Ask for Stories: Your questions should act as storytelling prompts to surface richer and chronological accounts of a participant’s experience. For example, “Tell me about a time when… , Walk me through a day in the life of…”
  • Use Curious Commands: Frame questions as an invitation to hear more about a participant’s experience or interaction. For example, “Describe a time when…, I’d love to hear more about…”
  • Follow-Up & Dive Deeper: Ask follow-up questions for more details. For example, “Could you elaborate on that further? What did you mean by…?”
  • Ask Neutral and Open-Ended Questions: Avoid double-barrelled, leading, and yes/no questions – make sure your questions are only asking for one answer and leave room for further exploration

The following are a few questions that can help guide you.

Ask for Clarification or Explanation

  • Ask for clarification. “When you refer to ‘that’ what exactly are you referring to?”
  • Ask for specific examples. “What did you mean by…? Could you give me an example?”
  • Ask about emotional cues. “Can I ask why you laughed when you mentioned…?”
  • Probe directly. “You mentioned you weren’t too sure what this sentence meant. Can you tell me what you thought it meant?”
  • Probe without presuming. Avoid direct questions. For example, instead of asking “What do you think about Facebook? Or “Do you like Facebook?” ask “Some people have mixed feelings about Facebook, what is your take on Facebook?”
  • Teach another. “If you had to ask a friend to use this, how would you explain it to them?”
  • Explain to an outsider. “Let’s say I am not familiar with this product, how would you explain to me the difference between this and another similar product?”

Ask for Relationships

  • Start with general questions. “How do you work with a new stakeholder group?”
  • Ask about organizational structure. “Who does the team report to?”
  • Ask about process across organization. “What happens after the script gets signed off from the content team?”
  • Ask about expectations. “When you submit a draft to your manager for review, what happens after your manager reviews the draft?”

Ask for Comparison

  • Compare processes. “What’s the difference between this, that and those?”
  • Compare to others. “Do other teams also do it that way?”
  • Compare across time. “How have your family photo activities changes in the past five years? How do you think they will be different 5 years from now?”

Ask for Details

  • Ask about sequence. “Can you describe to me your typical workday. What do you do when walk into work?”
  • Ask about quantity. “How many forms did you have to fill out to get to what you want?”
  • Ask about frequency. “How many times did you have to call to get your question answered?”
  • Ask about lists. “What do you usually pack when you travel?” You can ask a series of questions to clarify. For example, “anything else?”