How to Extract Useful Information

How to interview someone to get information you can use

How to get people to talk about themselves in a way that is useful

Talk about their life instead of your idea

Ask about specifics in the past, not generics or opinions about the future

Talk less and listen more

Types of answers to avoid

  • Compliments
  • Fluff (generics, hypotheticals, and the future)
  • Ideas

If they say something like this, ask for clarification. You aren’t there yet.

  • Generic claims (“I usually”, “I always”, “I never”)
  • Future-tense promises (“I would”, “I will”)
  • Hypothetical maybes (“I might”, “I could”)

Don’t ask questions that start with…

  • “Do you ever…”
  • “Would you ever…”
  • “How much would you pay for…”
  • “What do you usually…”
  • “Do you think you…”
  • “Might you…”
  • “Could you see yourself…”

The Script

Hi. Thank you for doing this. I’m going to do my best to ask questions that don’t ask you to guess, or speculate, or imagine. I’m most curious about stuff that actually happened. So I’ll ask you about things you’ve tried, stuff that worked, that didn’t work.

I won’t be talking about my ideas or my products. I’m not trying to sell you anything.

  1. Tell me more about what you’re trying to do.

  2. Did anything happen that first prompted you to seek out solutions?

  3. What have you tried?

(for each of them)

Did [thing] work?

How do you know it worked?

What was different for you? What were you able to do that you weren’t prior to trying [thing]?

If it didn’t work, what did you expect to happen? What ended up happening?

Did something happen that prompted you to try [thing]?

Where do you go for information about [doing what they want to do]?

What do you search for? What podcasts do you listen to?

What is your favorite social media account? Why?

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