Qualitative Interviews: Pitfalls to Avoid


User testing

Qualitative interviews are a way of getting feedback from your customers. They can be done in person, over the phone, or online with surveys and questionnaires. 

Qualitative interviews are very useful because they provide insights into what people think and feel about your product or service.

However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when conducting qualitative interviews that will help you get better results. 

In this blog post, we're going to discuss these pitfalls so that you can get more accurate data for your business.

It's essential to comprehend what qualitative interviews are all about to understand and avoid the pitfalls.

Understanding Qualitative Interviews
Advantages of Qualitative Interviews
Disadvantages of Qualitative Interviews
The Typical Pitfalls To Avoid in Qualitative Interviews
Conclusion

Understanding Qualitative Interviews

Qualitative interviews are qualitative, not quantitative. It is used to gain a better understanding of human behavior. 

It is analyzed by asking questions that allow for open-ended answers, instead of multiple-choice or Likert scale responses. 

During these types of interviews, there are typical pitfalls to avoid to get the most out of your interviewee’s insights.

The objective of qualitative interviews is to gain a better understanding of human behavior. The interviewer may ask open-ended questions to get the most out of their interviewee’s insights. 

Interviewers must avoid common pitfalls during these types of interviews, such as asking leading questions or giving unsolicited advice.

This type of research is particularly effective in areas where there are no predefined right or wrong answers.

Advantages of Qualitative Interviews

  • They can help you gain deep insights into customer needs, desires and behaviors.

  • The participants feel more relaxed during the interview. Because they are not being tested with questions that could be misinterpreted or lead to their answers falling short of what is expected by the interviewer.

  • Both qualitative data (focus groups, contextual inquiries) and quantitative research (surveys) provide an opportunity for respondents to give feedback about a product/service in detail. This provides rich material upon which decisions may be made regarding plans & budgets.

  • Qualitative interviews are extremely useful in the early stages of product development after a prototype/MVP has been created.

  • Qualitative interviews are most useful for understanding how your customers think and feel about certain topics or issues that you would like feedback on.

It is important to keep in mind that the use of qualitative research is limited by its scope and depth.

Disadvantages of Qualitative Interviews

There is a possibility of the interviewer influencing the respondent.

There is a possibility that respondents lack in their knowledge or understanding to give accurate answers

The data collection process might take longer than expected since it requires more time for probing questions and follow-up probes.

Negative feedback from the respondents might frustrate the interviewer. 

Tap here to know how to deal with negative feedback.

The main aim of a research study is to gather reliable information to assess a problem or issue that requires attention.  

This is why interviewers must remain open-minded when interviewing with participants during qualitative interviews. 

There is a possibility that there will be times where some level of disagreement between interviewer and participant occurs. 

But this should not discourage you from continuing with your questioning until all necessary responses have been received.

The Typical Pitfalls To Avoid in Qualitative Interviews

The interviewer should allow the interviewee to speak without interruption. 

The goal is not for you, as the interviewer, to tell your story. 

But rather for both of you to discover what makes sense together about their perspective on this topic (and hopefully others throughout your interviews). 

Avoiding interruptions will help keep them talking and engaged in conversation with you. 

Remember that it is a collaborative process between yourself and each person being interviewed so be sure they are valued participants in each discussion.

Another pitfall to avoid during qualitative interviews is asking closed-ended questions. The questions might lead respondents into giving short one or two-sentence answers instead of elaborating further. 

Open-ended questions offer space for them to respond at length by offering insight beyond just a simple yes or no answer, which is something you can expect to get from closed-ended questions.

One of the most common pitfalls, during qualitative interviews, would be doing too many open-ended questions at once. 

Rather than starting with some closed-ended questions first to warm up your participants before diving into more sensitive topics. 

This might arise while completing a set of open-ended questions after each other. 

Doing this will allow them time to process what it is they want to say and help ensure their responses are thoughtful and relevant. 

Rather than impulsive reactions due to nervousness or discomfort communicating such information about themselves (such as personal experiences).

Typical mistakes people make when conducting qualitative interviews but for different reasons would be not having a thorough understanding of the topic you're asking about. 

While this might not seem as important when it comes to something like job satisfaction, topics such as mental health or sexual assault are much more sensitive. 

Meanwhile, it requires that all parties involved have a shared level of expertise beforehand for your participants to feel safe disclosing both their personal experiences with those events. 

Along with what impact they think them having on others is likely to be.

One way around this pitfall would be by making sure any literature related directly to the research purpose is thoroughly read before conducting the interview. 

This results in almost no possibility of misinterpreting anything said during an interview due to the lack of knowledge on a particular term or concept, for example. 

It should go without saying that if someone working within counseling services is conducting this research, they should have a thorough understanding of the counseling process and how it works.

Never ask leading questions that might provide answers you're looking for as opposed to those participants are likely going to give without being prompted. It's easy enough for people to conduct these kinds of interview sessions by mistake. 

However, if your goal is producing unbiased results then it can be incredibly problematic in skewing anything related to data collected. 

To help prevent any bias on part of the interviewer, having an impartial third party present at all times will also go some way towards limiting further issues like this from arising too, which would hopefully result in more accurate findings coming out over time.

Another important thing to remember is that the whole reason for conducting qualitative interviews instead of some other method in order particularly if you want a representative sample of the 'average' participant. 

This means it's not going to be easy trying to get honest and accurate insight from someone who simply doesn't trust or like you. 

Going over these kinds of issues beforehand with participants can help ensure they're more at ease when visiting your site, app, and so on, which should hopefully result in them being much less likely to share any information that might not necessarily paint your product(s) in a positive light.

Attempting to change the subject or lead a speaker around can sometimes result in unpleasant disruptions and forceful remarks. Getting the person to move on to the next topic or get back on course might be tricky.

If you're not already familiar with the jargon used to describe specific products or services, it might be necessary for you to ask questions that may seem rather elementary. This can create an impression of inexperience on your part and possibly offend the person talking.

Attempting to relate with the person you're interviewing may be beneficial. Asking questions about family, hobbies or past experiences can provide a basis to form a rapport with the person being interviewed.

In addition to asking questions and taking notes during an interview, it is also important that your body language does not give away any negative feelings towards what's being said. A lack of eye contact could indicate disinterest in what they have to say while looking at their watch might suggest boredom on your part.

If you find yourself getting overly excited by something that was mentioned in conversation, try avoiding words like “great” or “interesting”. This type of language has been associated with forced enthusiasm when used in an interview.

It is also important that you try to avoid taking over the conversation. You should allow them plenty of time for their stories and it's best not to interrupt if they get stuck or start stumbling over words.

If you're still having trouble getting a story out of someone, consider changing the subject slightly to get them back on track. Don't forget that asking questions about any obvious gaps can be useful too. Because this gives your interviewee another opportunity to talk about what happened.

Interviewers should not lead their questions with assumptions or bias. 

For example, asking “when was the last time you drank” instead of simply saying “how often do you drink alcohol?” would be considered leading as it gives them an assumption about how frequently they consume alcoholic beverages.

Another common pitfall during these types of interviews is giving unsolicited advice or intervening in any way unless requested by the participant. 

If participants raise concerns on their own. The interviewer needs to acknowledge this and use probing techniques to better understand their underlying concerns.

 And last but not least - don't always take notes during the interview; instead try to focus on listening carefully and taking mental notes for later transcription into written form!

Conclusion

Qualitative research is a very important aspect of research, and the purpose is to help determine a pattern for future quantitative studies. 

However, it can be difficult to form an accurate conclusion from this data because there are so many factors that may sway your results in either direction or skew them entirely. 

Anyway, with proper techniques and thorough analysis, most if not all of these problems can be avoided.

Related Reading:

Preparing for user feedback: Crafting the right questions

9 UX research methods and techniques that every product team should use!

Developing the vision for the product: An interview with TryMyUI’s UX Architect

10 ways to avoid bias in your user testing research

UX in healthcare tech: Empathetic research & motivational design

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