The art of interviewing in Product Discovery

Key takeaways of this article:

  1. Accept there is no objective reality
  2. Free the words
  3. Listen actively
  4. Hunt down language shortcuts
  5. Ask for behaviors rather than opinions
  6. Go up to the Need level
  7. Mitigate only one biais (confirmation)

1/ The problem : there is no “objective” reality

  1. Perception : our senses alter what we see. An extreme exemple is a color-blind person unable to distinguish between colors… But you can also think of these pictures that you can see in two different ways (eg. the chin of a young lady being the nose of an old woman)
  2. Processing : our beliefs impact the way our brain turns a signal into a memory in our brain by giving a certain meaning to it (ex. a Coca Cola can will be described by some people as a “red cylinder” while others will talk of “symbol of capitalism”)
  3. Rendering : when rendering the information to others, mainly through language, human language will again “transform” the informations. Inuit people have 16 words to describe “snow”. So if we talk to them about “snow”, they will just say “Ok, but what kind of snow ?”
Distorsion between what the User did and said they did
Distorsion between what the Interviewer said the User said (he did)
The Product Management lifecycle (credit : Marty Cagan)

2/ Free the words

  • User won’t be “effective” if no framing
  • User won’t be honest if no relation

3/ Listen actively

  • Leaving blanks
  • Rephrasing
When the User looks up/right/down, don’t interrupt !

4/ Hunt down language shortcuts

  • Generalization : they are the easiest ones to spot. Words like “never”, “always” are generally a good sign. You can challenge them by asking something like : “Always ? Really ? It never happened differently, even once ?”
  • Deletion : these ones are quite easy to spot as well. They are expressions that are very vague like “It was not so good”, “It was ok”, “I feel better”. You can question them by asking for more context : “What makes you feel better ? Compared to when ?”
  • Distorsion : they are a bit more difficult to spot. Distortion occurs when something is mistaken for that which it is not. For instance “The hiring manager never replied to me, I will never get the job”. You can question them by asking “what demonstrates that you won’t get the job in the fact that the hiring manager did not answer ?” Indeed, the hiring manager might just be expecting the final results of another candidate or is about to close a more urgent recruitment…
  • Assess their attractiveness on the labour market
  • Monitor outstanding opportunities even if they don’t feel like moving

5/ Ask for behaviors rather than opinions

6/ Go up to the needs level

The Product Pyramid

7/ Mitigate only one biais (confirmation)

  • It makes you influence the user to hear what you want
  • It prevents you from hearing what you dont want
  • Pairing : interview by pair, one as observer, the other as interviewer. It will bring two different perspectives. Try to pair with “non similar” people to maximize perspectives
  • Awareness : before interviewing, try to become aware of your biases. What do you want to hear ? (because you always want to hear for something special). What do you think the User will tell you ? By becoming aware of these elements, you give you a chance to mitigate them strongly.




Tech entrepreneur, Coach, Trainer | Founder @WILL, ex-CPO (Chief Product Officer) at ManoMano, ex Founding Partner at Artefact

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Tech entrepreneur, Coach, Trainer | Founder @WILL, ex-CPO (Chief Product Officer) at ManoMano, ex Founding Partner at Artefact

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