User interviews training

User interviews training

User interviews are the foundation for most ideas you propose as a growth team. They’re your source of truth for what the customer wants — but you have to do them properly.

Skim this doc before doing Phase 1 so you have a high-level sense of how this will go.

Phase 1: Prep work

Read the U- Users section of the USERS growth framework.

Then, read the answer below:

When it comes to initial user interviews, wouldn't we want to interview the unhappier users, since they'd have more feedback on what we can improve on?

Phase 2: Learn

At a high-level, we’re trying to figure out:

  • What growth loops might apply to this product
  • What acquisition channels might work (word-of-mouth? content? Twitter? etc.)
  • Magic moments in the product
  • What their value props are
  • What their buyer’s journey looks like

Tactically, you need to do a few things.

Ask about the past and ground your questions in specifics. “What was the last meeting you booked this week?” is better than “How do you usually book meetings?” and 10x better than “How will you book meetings?”

Almost never ask hypotheticals. Why? People are notoriously bad at predicting what they’ll do. By asking what they already did, you’ll learn their actual behavior.

Ask followup questions. It’s more important to tug on interesting threads than to ask “all” the questions on your list. See where the conversation goes.

E.g., “You mentioned [you like dogs] — let me dig into that a little more. [Have you owned a dog before? What type was it? etc.]

Ask “How did you hear about X?” A lot. This doesn’t just apply to your product. Ask about other similar products they use. Dig into why they tried it or why they trusted it.

In particular, if your interviewee heard about you through word-of-mouth, dig into who referred them and how they know that person. There are often interesting hints around acquisition channels. You might also ask for an intro that person. Rack up those intros.

Basically, you’re filling out phase 2 of the growth strategy.


When it comes to initial user interviews, wouldn't we want to interview the unhappier users, since they'd have more feedback on what we can improve on?
How do I push for a call or more info in a situation where I get answers that are too brief? (See email inside.)
How long should user interviews take?

Phase 3: Come up with a questions doc

Come up with 5-15 questions you can use as crutches in your interview. Here’s an example of a good doc — feel free to steal.

Template: User Interview Questions

Phase 4: Schedule a mock interview session with your mentor [optional]

Ping them on Slack to do this if you’re part of our program. It should roughly go:

  1. You interview them (10 minutes) + feedback (5 minutes)
  2. They interview you (10 minutes)
  3. You interview them again (10 minutes) + feedback (5 minutes)

Phase 5: Pull a list of retained users

Retained users mean people who continue to use you, not just who used you once and left.

Don’t wriggle out of this unless you really don’t have retained users. This list should come from something like Mixpanel or Amplitude or your backend. Really good founders will know these folks by name in the early days.

Tactic: find the testimonials on their website and ask your founder for intros to the people who gave them.

Phase 6: Outreach

Ask your product team or account managers to see if they can make a warm intro to customers they’ve already talked with.

If that’s not possible...

  1. Set up a calendly to make it easy for people to book time with you.
  2. Just use Gmail to send invitations from your client email (i.e., You shouldn’t need anything fancy and you shouldn’t send more than 50 emails in a batch.
  3. You can use the “Message Template” feature or aText to speed up the repetitive parts.
  4. Here’s an outreach template that has worked well in the past:
Subject: [COMPANY NAME] feedback (and gift card)
I work with the growth team at [COMPANY NAME] — I saw you’ve been using us for a while and I’d love to interview you about what your experience has been like. This would directly impact the features we build and how we market them.
(I'll send you a $25 Amazon gift card as a thank you.)
Free for 15-20 minutes this week or next? You can book time here [LINK to calendly].

An incentive helps get people to respond, but it isn’t always necessary. For some, the incentive is just being able to give input on the product and marketing direction, and adding money/gifts makes the interaction feel too transactional. (We see this most with mission-driven companies.)

Sometimes, we offer a “virtual lunch” to be cute – i.e., a $25 DoorDash gift card. You get the best response rates when you research the person you’re emailing and offer them a tailored incentive. For example, if their Instagram has tons of photos of their pug, get them tickets a local dog show.

Note: If your company has fewer than 10 happy users, you should invest much more than $25 in them. Good teams literally fly out to get lunch with these people and build a relationship with them. (This also makes it easier to interview them in the future.) You can invite these people to your “Customer Advisory Board.”
  1. Bounce your email off your mentor in Slack for feedback.
  2. Use the “Send Later” feature in Gmail to schedule the email to go out between 8:30 and 9:10 AM on a weekday. Account for time zone.
    • Why? People check their email first thing in the morning (i.e., 9 AM, when they first start working), and the newest emails sit at the top. This means we want to get to their inbox right before they open it.
    • There are many opinions on the best time to send emails, so feel free to ignore our advice if you think you have a good reason.

Phase 7: Interview People

You can build off the questions in Phase 2.

It’s OK (in fact, it’s very good!) to ask for another interview if you weren’t able to get to every question you wanted and the vibe is good.

Aim to interview at least 10 users. Stop when you aren’t getting new learnings.

Feel free to invite your advisor to the first 1 or 2 interviews (if it works with their schedule).

[Optional] Record calls with Grain.


I don't want to distract users/myself by taking notes during the interview. What do you recommend?
Is it OK to ask users if I can record the interview?
How do you troubleshoot why users aren’t doing user interviews?

Phase 8: Create Outputs

Your learnings should lead to...

  1. Filled out personas slides and buyer’s journey
  2. A filled out value props doc (template, background reading)

Start filling them out.

Additional Resources