Interviewing Basics: Passing the Mom Test
  • Updated on 20 Jun 2019
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Interviewing Basics: Passing the Mom Test

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Conversations with your customer take time, are easy to screw up and go wrong in a nefarious way. Bad customer conversations aren’t just useless. Worse, they convince you that you’re on the right path. They give you a false positive which causes you to over-invest your cash, your time, and your team. Even when you’re not actively screwing something up, those pesky customers seem hellbent on lying to you.

Recommendation ⭐️
This book is mandatory for all startups that go through our Acceleration Program. If you don't have a copy, you can buy it on Amazon here or as a $10 PDF here.

The Mom Test is a set of simple rules for crafting good questions that even your mom can't lie to you about.

10 rules of thumb to help you craft better questions:

  1. Opinions are worthless.
  2. Anything involving the future is an over-optimistic lie.
  3. People will lie to you if they think it’s what you want to hear.
  4. People know what their problems are, but they don’t know how to solve those problems.
  5. You're shooting blind until you understand their goals.
  6. Some problems don’t actually matter.
  7. Watching someone do a task will show you where the problems and inefficiencies really are, not where the customer thinks they are.
  8. If they haven't looked for ways of solving it already, they're not going to look for/buy yours.
  9. While it’s rare for someone to tell you precisely what they’ll pay you, they’ll often show you what it’s worth to them.
  10. People want to help you, but will rarely do so unless you give them an excuse to do so.
Resource 🛠
Use the User Observation Tool to you organize and prepare for your interviews

Good Question vs. Bad Question

Question Quality
Do you think it’s a good idea? Awful question!
Would you buy a product which did X? Bad question.
How much would you pay for X? Bad question.
What would your dream product do? So-so question, but only if you ask good follow-ups.
Why do you bother? Good question.
What are the implications of that? Good question.
Talk me through the last time that happened. Good question.
Talk me through your workflow. Good question.
What else have you tried? Good question.
Would you pay X for a product which did Y? Bad question.
How are you dealing with it now? Good question.
Where does the money come from? Good question.
Who else should I talk to? Good question.
Is there anything else I should have asked? Good question.

It boils down to this

You aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution.

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