Should You Send Case Study Interview Questions in Advance?

BY Holly Yoos
February 9, 2024

Sending your case study interview questions to your interviewee in advance sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

And certainly, if you type “should you send case study interview questions in advance” into Google, that’s the boilerplate advice everyone gives.

But is that truly good advice?

Or does it depend on the situation?

At Case Study Buddy, we’ve conducted (literally) hundreds and hundreds of case study interviews, and we’re continually testing new and better ways of conducting them.

And the answer isn’t as clear cut as you think.

Case Study Buddy founder Joel Klettke breaks it all down in a mere 60 seconds:

The case for providing questions in advance

When you provide some of your questions in advance of your case study interview, you have the opportunity to:

1. Seed the metrics

When you have them, metrics can take a case study from good to great—being able to say you helped a client save $100,000/month and hundreds of hours of work each quarter is much more compelling than something vague like “reduced costs and saved time.” 

Chances are, your customers know how much your product has helped them. But even the people who work with your product every day probably don’t have the numbers ready to go at the drop of a hat. Ask your customers for the metrics you’re hoping to include beforehand. 

You want to give your customers homework, so they come to your interview ready to share. That’s usually easier to do before the interview because they want to be prepared. After the fact, it can be much harder to get those details out of them. 

2. Soothe sensitive stakeholders

If you’re working with sensitive industries or enterprise companies, you may choose to send a base set of questions ahead of time, in case their PR or legal team want to review them. In our experience, large companies have more red tape when it comes to sharing details of their work—they don’t want an interviewee to accidentally give away their secret sauce. Sending a few questions in advance allows them to coach their employee to make sure they don’t disclose anything confidential. It can also reassure skittish customers that you have their best interests at heart

3. Capture video testimonials 

If your primary deliverable is a video testimonial, having your interviewee come prepared is going to make a big impact on your final product. Chances are you’ll only get one shot to film this interview—you don’t want your interviewee caught off guard or scrambling to respond. And in a video, you won’t have the opportunity to chase metrics later and insert them after the fact. 

Give your interviewee some guidance of what the conversation will cover so they can make sure they have the answers ready to go. That way, they can fill gaps in their knowledge or talk to teammates who might know more before you start shooting. 

Pitfalls to watch out for

1. Over-rehearsed responses

If you send your interviewee an exhaustive list of questions, they might prepare an exhaustive list of responses and try to read those out to you. We’ve found this to be especially likely for nervous interviewees or non-native speakers—they want to make sure they say all the right things, but their delivery ends up coming off as stilted, awkward, and formal. 

When this happens, it’s important to be able to go off book and dig a little deeper. Ask follow up questions they didn’t prepare for, or probe further on how something happened or why it matters to them. 

2. Failure to review 

On the flip side, about half of the interviewees who receive questions in advance don’t bother to review them, in our experience. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. If your interviewer is experienced, knows the brief and stays focused on what the case study needs to cover they can dig deeper, adjust their questions based on the interviewee’s answers, and make notes on what to follow up on later, if needed. 

But that only works for experienced interviewers who are used to thinking on their feet, so make sure you choose your interviewer wisely. 

3. Overwhelm 

If you send your interviewee a laundry list of questions, they might get nervous about how long the process will take and feel overwhelmed about the work it requires. In a worst-case scenario, they might even decide to pull out completely, leaving you scrambling to find another case study candidate. 

So, should you send your questions in advance? 

At Case Study Buddy, we don’t believe there is ever a compelling reason to send a full point-by-point list of everything you want to cover in your interview. It makes people nervous. If they over prepare, they’ll come across stilted and wooden. And if they don’t have time to review your questions and show up without preparing at all, they’ll be worried that their lack of preparation will make them look bad. 

But sending a few questions in advance and flagging the metrics you want to include can help things move more smoothly, especially when you work with enterprises. Striking the right balance is a matter of knowing your customers and understanding your industry. 

Want us to coordinate and conduct those case study interviews for you? Eager to get the most ROI from every single story you do? 

Contact us to start the conversation.

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