Interviewing is an important technique for
eliciting requirements from your stakeholders.
When interviewing stakeholders you have several
potential goals to accomplish:
- You might want to broaden your understanding of
- You might want to determine who to invite to
modeling sessions and/or be active members of
- You might want to directly identify new or
existing requirements for your application.
Interviewing is a skill that takes
years to master, one that cannot possibly be taught in a
few paragraphs. However, here are a few helpful
pointers to help you to improve your interviewing
The best place to get training in interviewing is at
journalism school. Because interviewing is recognized
as a key skill needed by journalists, journalism schools
tend to have top-notch interviewing courses. Although
interviewing is also a key skill needed by computer
professionals, very few computer science programs teach
- Send ahead an agenda so as to
set expectations and allow your interviewee to
prepare for the interview.
- Verify a few hours ahead of
time that the interview is still on because people's
schedules can change.
- When you first meet the person,
thank them for taking time out of their busy day.
- Tell the interviewee what the
project is about and how they fit into the overall
process. This lets them know that their input is
- Summarize the issues that you
want to discuss, and verify how long the interview
will go. This helps to set their expectations and
they will help you to manage the time taken during
- Ask the critical questions as
soon as possible, that way if the interview is cut
short you have gotten the important information.
- Ask them if you have missed
anything, or if they'd like to add something. This
gives them a chance to voice their concerns and will
often open new avenues of questioning.
- Do not assume that you know
everything, especially if you think you have already
heard it before. Your users will rarely have a
consistent view of the world, and part of the
requirements definition process is to understand
where everyone is coming from. If everyone has the
same view on everything that's great, but it's
incredibly rare so do not shut down your users with
a comment like "I've already heard this before…"
- End the interview by
summarizing the main points. This gives you a
chance to review your notes and ensure that you
- Thank the person again at the
end of the interview.
- Inform the interviewee when you
will summarize the interview notes (hopefully
immediately after the interview when it's still
fresh in your mind) and tell them that you will send
them a copy for their review. This helps to put
them at ease because they know that their input
wasn't taken out of context and it also helps to
improve the quality of your notes because they
review them and give you feedback.
- Remember, there's more to
interviewing people than just talking to them -- you
also need to listen.
- Interviewing is just one of
requirements elicitation techniques.