In this project management tutorial Angela shares tips on how to research the person being interviewed prior to the meeting. She discusses tips on learning about their professional background, motivations, and personality to ensure you are set up for success in meeting them and achieving your goals for the meeting.
- I'm an extrovert so I'm very comfortable winging it when it comes to meeting someone for the first time. You may relate to me here or you might be an introvert and get nervous meeting someone for the first time. In either case, researching the interviewee is a great step in improving your interviews. This may seem obvious to some but it has saved me a lot of time and saved many relationships and projects. How often do you rush into interviewing a stakeholder without knowing anything about them? I can't tell you how many times I've done this and I finally learned my lesson.
Researching someone can also be helpful if you've not spoken in some time or if they are a leader in the organization and there is constant change. Researching the person will help you connect and build rapport more quickly. It'll help you select meaningful questions and probe more for their answers. I want to share some ideas on how to research the stakeholders you're interviewing. You may not incorporate all of these into researching every person but thinking about these and selecting a few key things for each person will help make the interview a success.
I've also included a checklist of more of these research questions in an exercise file. The first area to research is who are they professionally? You may want to look into things like what is their title and where are they on the org chart? What are their major roles and responsibilities in the organization? These types of things help you understand what their days are like and what may and might not be a priority.
Also look into, do they have direct reports? How is this person measured in their role? And how long have they been with the organization? Do they have a good relationship with the sponsor? You may also want to research them and look up their professional background on LinkedIn. These types of things help you understand how they fit into the project and what their attitude about the project might be. Also consider, are there organizational politics you need to be aware of with the stakeholder? Getting answers to these questions before or during the interview will help you strategically navigate the dialogue while building a connection with them.
The second area is what is their relationship to the project? Some things you may want to understand before meeting with them are, what is their role and relationship to the project? Have they voiced any opinions about the project and have they voiced those opinions vocally or out loud? In private to others? These questions will help you connect with them as they relate to the project. Additionally, you may want to look into things like how does the project likely impact them or their team? What's in it for them to support the project and participate? What will they gain? Is the project at the top of their priorities and why or why not? These answers and action from you showing your understanding will help them feel like you get them and build a strong feeling of trust and connection.
Also consider, what is the history with the delivery team and this person. For example, do they have a history of poor experiences with projects in the past? Understanding this type of information helps you empathize and understand the undertones of the dialogue with this person. The third area is about them personally. Some people think personal stuff isn't for the workplace and I agree to some extent. However, there are plenty of benefits to knowing stakeholders personally in an appropriate manner with boundaries to help build relationships and trust.
Some of the personal aspects that are helpful to understand about stakeholders before meeting with them are are they an introvert or extrovert? This gives you insight on if they like to talk things out loud, think things through or need some more reflection time before really getting into deep dialogues. Are they a relationship person or more of a just do it person? This helps you know how much time to spend on getting to know them versus getting to the point.
Do they have common hobbies, family or related friends and family to the organization? For example, maybe their husband is hunting buddies with the sponsor or maybe they spend all their free time volunteering at a food shelf and love to chat and connect about that. Now you might be thinking, where do I get all this information and why don't I just ask them during the interview? Well, you get this information from people you've already established trusted relationships with. It might be the project manager or the leader you report to or someone else that you're close with.
It might also be other stakeholders you've already built rapport with. You can also use some internal research like the organization's internal portal to research leaders. Doing research upfront will help ensure they're the right person to interview. It will also provide insight into how to connect with them so the conversation flows and you both get benefit from the dialogue.
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- Choosing to use interviews
- Selecting the right person to interview
- Planning interview questions
- Building rapport in an interview
- Choosing probing questions
- Listening and taking notes
- Analyzing and reviewing notes before following up