Don’t Let Calling Do You In

To conduct an elicitation interview, you have to talk with someone. And to do that, you have to first contact them. Today, that still means either face-to-face or by telephone. It is very hard to do even a decent elicitation interview by email. Why? Because there is no emotional connection and using text exchanges may give the subject way too much time to think about you and your questions.

So how can you prepare for elicitation interviews on the telephone? Here are some starting tips, not complete, but good for the newbie to master:

  1. Do not be afraid or nervous. What is the worst that can happen? Someone will hang up on you? Forget about it. Move on.
  2. Do not do interviews until you have exhausted your secondary (desk, book, Internet) research. Use interviews for things you cannot get otherwise, for adding currency to dated data, and for figuring out what will happen, not just what has happened.
  3. What do you want to find out? Can you state it in one short sentence? Then say it out loud. Does it make sense? If not change it. Never read it from notes.
  4. Allow enough time. Even though you think it will take only 5 minutes, allow more. Maybe you will get lucky and the subject will be chatty. Do not turn off the faucet before it stops.
  5. Make sure you will not be interrupted by calls, fellow workers, etc. so you can take good notes.
  6. Be professional, and polite. First, smile while you are talking. It really works. Then watch your language. You will be surprised, perhaps even shocked, how much a “please” or “thanks” can get you. Even if a subject does not want to talk, ask, politely, if there is someone else that could help you and if you can use the subject’s name. Regardless, of what is said, “thank” the subject.
  7. Be patient. Maybe this is not a good time for the subject. If so, reschedule – right then – politely. If the subject is discussing something that is particularly useful, keep it moving, using little nudges, like “really?” and even dead silence. Silence can be very effective. It may make the subject slightly uncomfortable, maybe enough to add something more.
  8. Wind it up. When you have what you want, try to take the conversation quickly to something else, so that the final impression left in the subject’s mind is not the critical data you were seeking, but something else. Then, again, “thanks”.
  9. When you are done, hang up and then write-up your notes into a full document. Never put it off. You will forget something, maybe small (to you) comments, maybe an inflection that could be important later.
  10. Now go back to number 1.

2 Comments on “Don’t Let Calling Do You In”

  1. […] To conduct an elicitation interview, you have to talk with someone. And to do that, you have to first contact them. Today, that still means either face-to-face or by telephone. It is very hard to do even a decent elicitation interview by email. Why? Because there is no emotional connection and using text exchanges may give the subject way too much time to think about you and your questions. So how can you prepare for elicitation interviews on the telephone?  […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s