Interview techniques for business analysts

An interview is a structured approach created to obtain business analysis
information from a person or group of people by talking to the them, asking pertinent questions, and recording their responses.

An interview can also be used to establish relationships and enable trust between the business analysts and stakeholders in order to gain support for a proposed solution.

Interviews are a common technique used in gathering requirements. They involve direct communication with individuals or groups of people who are part of a change.

In an interview, the interviewer e.g. the business analyst, would ask the stakeholders straight questions in order to obtain information.

This is usually done through one-on-one interviews with the stakeholders. But if the interview is with more than one stakeholder, the interviewer has to organize it carefully in order to effectively obtain responses from each of the participants.

There are two types of interviews techniques used to gather business analysis information and they are:

  • Structured interview: in this type in the interviewer comes prepared with a predetermined set of questions.
  • Unstructured interview: in this type of interview, the interviewer does not have a predetermined list of questions and the questions may differ based on the interviewee responses.

The business analyst could also use a combination of the two techniques.

Effective interviewing techniques is dependent on components such as:

  1. The amount of domain knowledge that the interviewer has.
  2. The amount of interview experience that the interviewer has.
  3. The document expertise of the interviewer when recording the discussions.
  4. How prepared the interviewee is with material information.
  5. The amount of understanding that the interviewee’s has about the goal of the interview.
  6. The amount of rapport that is shared between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Interview have some components which include:

1. Interview goal: When organizing interviews, the business analysts should consider the following:
• the general reason for conducting the interviews, which is usually based on a business need.
• the individual objectives for each interview, based on what information the interviewee can provide. The objectives have to be clearly communicated to each interviewee.

2. Potential interviewees: The potential interviewees are to be identified based on the aims of the interview. This can be done with the help of stakeholders such as the project manager and project sponsor.

3. Interview questions: The interview questions should be written based on the interview goals, which include:
• gathering data.
• analyzing the stakeholder’s opinion of the change.
• creating a proffered solution.
• gathering support for the proffered solution from the interviewee.

There are two types of interview questions:

  1. Open-ended questions: these are used to encourage a conversation. They are also used to provide information which the interviewer may not be aware of.
  2. Closed questions: these are used to generated a single answer such as yes or no. They are often used to confirm information.

The interview questions are usually structured based on level of importance. Examples of questions order include start to finish, detailed to summary and general to specific.

Questions can also be organized based on factors such as the interviewee’s level of knowledge and the subject of the interview. Interview questions may also be customized when the purpose of the interview is to gather information that is unique to the perspective of the interviewee.

The interview guide is a document used to record the interviewee’s responses to the questions. It is also used to compose the interview questions, the interview appointments and any follow-up questions.

4. Interview logistics: to ensure that the interview is successful, the interviewer has to pay attention to logistics such as:

  1. The location for the interview: The interview should be adjusted to the schedule and accessibility of the interviewee and the method of communication which include in-person, phone, or online conferencing.
  2. If the interview would be recorded or not and if it is to be recorded would they require a scribe.
  3. If the interview questions need to be sent to the interviewees in advance. This is only used if the interviewee needs to research the information in order to prepare for the interview.
  4. If the interview results would need to be confidential and, if so, how the results will be summarized to avoid identifying the individual interviewees.

5. Interview flow: before the interview is started, the interviewer should do the following steps :
• Describe the purpose of the interview, including why the interviewees’ were needed.
• Confirm the interviewees’ roles and respond to any worries that they might have.
• Clarify how information from the interview will be recorded and shared with the interviewees and other stakeholders during the project.

During the interview, the interviewer should do the following :
• Keep focus on the set goals and predefined questions, and adjust them based on the information provided and non-verbal communication from the interviewees.
• Analyse the interviewees willingness to engage in the interview and to provide the required information.
• Consider if several meetings would be required to complete the entire
• Address any concerns raised by the interviewees by responding to them either during the interview or documenting them for follow-up interviews later on.
• Use active listening skills to confirm what the interviewer has said.
• Write down notes or record the interview.

Closing the interview, the interviewer should do the following steps:
• Ask the interviewees for any questions that may have been missed in the
• Provide contact information for the interviewees to use if they have any
additional information to send after the meeting is completed.
• Summarize the session.
• Define how the interview results will be used.
• Thank the interviewees for their time.

6. Interview follow-up: It is important for the interviewer to organize the information and confirm the results with the interviewees as soon as possible after the interview. Confirming the results allows the interviewees to identify any missed or incorrectly recorded items.

Interviews have both their strengths and limitations, which include:

• It inspires and builds rapport with the stakeholders.
• It is a simple, direct and clear technique that can be used in a range of situations.
• It allows the interviewer and participant to have conversations and explanations of the questions and answers.
• It allows the interview to study the interviewee’s non-verbal behaviour.
• The interviewer can ask follow-up and exploratory questions to confirm their own understanding.
• It maintains focus through the use of clear goals for the interview that have been accepted by all participants and can be met in the allocated time.
• It allows interviewees to convey opinions in private that they may be reluctant to express in public, especially when interview results are kept confidential.

• It takes a lot of time to plan and conduct interviews.
• It requires substantial commitment and involvement of the participants.
• The interviewer has to be trained to conduct effective interviews.
• Because it is based on the level of precision provided during the interview, the resulting documentation may be subject to the interviewer’s interpretation.
• There is a risk of the interviewer inadvertently leading the interviewee.