For a thoughtful approach to product growth and development, it’s critical to know the tasks and contexts that create the jobs-to-be-done (JTBDs) handled by your product.

Why is the answer so important? With it, you can:

  • Define all key elements in the growth model: target market, product/market fit, and product/channels fit.
  • Identify direct and indirect competitors used to solve those JTBDs.
  • Find where your product’s growth is coming from: how the market for solving those JTBDs is shifting and what people are switching away from when they choose your product.
  • Discover why people are switching from other products to yours. In other words, find your product’s added value relative to the alternatives.

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Objective and methods

Objective: Determine jobs-to-be-done and contexts for which your product has achieved product/market fit.

The results will help us to answer important high-level questions:

  • What JTBDs does your product solve for users? In which contexts?
  • What other ways exist for solving those jobs?
  • From which alternatives is your product taking away JTBD “workshare”?
  • What is the product’s added value compared to those alternatives?
  • How could that added value be increased?

Methdology: In-depth interviews.

Users to interview: Users who are benefiting from the product and successfully use it to accomplish JTBDs. At the start of the interview process, you usually don’t have enough information to identify who exactly these users are. A logical starting place is with users who have performed actions that bring them value.

Subject lines for recruiting users

Here are some email subject lines that we have found effective for recruiting users to participate in interviews:

  • Help us to improve [Product] 
  • Answer a survey and help make [Product] better for you
  • Research study: We want to hear from you

If you have problems with recruitment, one option is to mention a reward in the subject line. But we don’t recommend this. You should be careful when offering rewards (especially money), since they can skew participant motivations.

Another way to improve recruitment rates is to have the emails come from the company founder.

Messages for recruiting users

Template #1


I work at [Company] and am working to learn more about users of [Product].

We would like to know what you use [Product] for in order to make it better for you.

(As a thank you for participating in our research, we are offering [Reward] for your participation.)

Do you have time for a 40-minute call?

If yes, fill out the following form and select a time that works for you.

Template #2 (from a real email sent by Medium to its users)

Hi [Name],

Thinking about our goals for the year ahead, a big one for us is continuing to make Medium a better place for writers like you. And that starts with listening to your story and understanding your needs.

As part of that effort, we wanted to invite you to consider joining an online research study we’re running, where we’ll be looking to learn about things like your approach towards writing, your hopes for the future, and your experiences sharing writing on Medium and elsewhere.

Below is some information about what the research study entails.

— Dates: 4/15/21 to 4/27/21

— Location: Remote

— Format: Online survey run by a third-party research company

— Length: 15–20 minutes

— Incentive: $5.00 Amazon Gift Card

— Eligibility: This study is restricted to writers based in the United States

If you’re interested in participating, copy and paste the link in your web browser: [Link]

We recommend filling it out as soon as possible as space is limited and fills up quickly.

Please note you’ll receive an incentive only if you are selected and fully complete the questionnaire. Expect an email within 4–6 weeks to deliver the incentive.

Thank you and take care.

Medium Creators Team

Survey invitation by Sean Ellis

When assessing product/market fit, you can use the Sean Ellis methodology to recruit users.

Surveys offer a quick way to understand the universe of options that people see in the context of their JTBD. They also tell us how the product creates value for the people who would be very disappointed if the product vanished tomorrow.

The next step is to hold in-depth interviews with the users who said they would be “very disappointed” if the product disappeared. These are the users who have discovered the added value of your product. This is the user segment for which you likely have product/market fit.

You can borrow from the approach used by Superhuman of including people who answered “somewhat disappointed”. But if you do, focus on those who see the same added value in the product as the “very disappointed” users. Sean has explained the reasons for this in his article.

The only drawback of this survey is that it doesn’t do well at attracting users who had a time-limited JTBD and have already solved it.

Here is an example of a subject line and text that Sean himself has used:

2-Minute Survey for [Product]

Hi [FirstName],

We’re conducting a brief survey of [Product] users, and we’d love to hear what you think.

Here’s a link to the survey:


We read every piece of feedback we receive and use it to continuously improve [Product] for everyone.

Thanks for your participation!

[Sender Name]

Outline for structuring in-depth interviews

Here is an interview outline (template) that should work for nearly any product. But it’s important to adapt this outline to your particular product and jobs-to-be-done. As you start to better understand user JTBDs, you can tweak the script after each interview accordingly.

Be careful if you are interviewing users for a B2B product. Who are you talking with: the end user or a corporate decision-maker? Their answers will be different.

1. Tell me how you discovered and started using [Product].

2. Why did you first decide to use [Product]? What were your expectations of [Product] before you started using it?

3. Think about the last few situations when you’ve used [Product]. Let’s discuss each of these situations:

  • Describe what was happening before you used [Product].
  • What job were you trying to accomplish with [Product]? [You may want to ask this question several times to dig down to the real JTBD]
  • How often do you have to do that job? In what situations does it arise?
  • How happy were you with the result after using [Product]? Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 and provide your comments.
  • How did you perform this job previously? How happy were you with that solution? What were its advantages and disadvantages? [Zero in on the pain points in their previous solution in order to find room for improving your product’s added value]
  • Did you consider any of those alternatives before using [Product]? If so, which ones, and why did you ultimately decide to use [Product]?

4. Think of times when you got that job done using the alternatives you’ve just mentioned:

  • Describe what things were like before you started using it.
  • What job were you trying to get done?
  • Why did you choose that way over [Product]?

5. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Interview recommendations

Record the interview or buddy up

Record the interview so that you stay fully focused on the user, instead of constantly taking notes. Make sure to review the recordings immediately after the interview (on the same day). Otherwise, the details of the conversation and your mental notes will fade away quickly.

Another option is to bring another person to the interview, having one person talk with the user while the other takes notes.

Interviewing in tandem with a second person has another advantage: user responses are often open to different interpretations. Right after the interview, you can bounce your takeaways and insights off of the other person to compare.

Try to establish an emotional connection

Emotionally connecting with the user makes them feel comfortable and open to sharing. If this connection is absent, the user’s responses may be insincere and contain little true signal.

Research the user prior to the interview

Come in to the interview knowing everything you can about the person you will be talking with. Review the data you have about them and think of additional questions you could ask. You can use this information to validate the user’s responses (such as how often they have to perform a certain JTBD). But be careful and don’t overdo it, either. You want to be sure to not spook the user and to stay compliant with all data protection laws.

Ask open-ended questions

The point of the interview is to see the world through users’ eyes. Ask questions that are open-ended, as opposed to ones with narrow “yes/no” answers.

Ask about the past, preferably with examples

People do a very bad job of predicting their own behavior. So in your interviews, don’t spend time trying to ask about the future or hypothetical situations. Ask about the past. Get the user to talk about a situation that has already happened in real life. Dig into the causes of the decisions and actions they actually took.

Don’t try to explain or sell anything

After hearing a user’s answer, interviewers often get defensive: they start explaining how everything was supposed to go and what they actually intended. Don’t give in to this temptation. The interview is not the time to sell your product or prove its awesomeness. You should be trying to understand how people are currently using and finding value with it. Ask questions, listen, and try to figure out what exactly the user is thinking and why. The time for solving problems and misconceptions will come later, when you work to improve the product and its marketing.

Stay objective

Without meaning to, interviewers can influence the responses they hear. They might inadvertently give emotional cues to the person they’re interviewing—something as subtle as a change in pose or a brief facial expression. Or perhaps they ask leading questions that suggest a certain answer or train of thought. All of this will detract from the quality of the answers.

Look for causes

Users may not understand their own real motivations very well. But your job is to attain that understanding by asking additional questions. This is especially true for B2C products where not all decisions are the result of extended rational deliberation. Try using the “five whys” method or follow up with questions like “And why did you need to do that?” and “Why was that important?”.

Knowing when the interview process is done

It takes time to figure out user JTBDs. The first round of interviews probably won’t give all the answers you want. Interviews are part of an ongoing process that gives a better idea of the jobs-to-be-done and sets a direction for future efforts.

When you start to reliably predict user responses with accuracy, this is a good sign that you can wind down the interview process. Usually this takes 10 to 20 interviews, depending on the level of interview detail, as well as complexity of the JTBDs and market.

Equipped with this new and improved understanding of JTBDs, take a look at your product and your approach to working on it. Gradually you will gain a deeper understanding of what users are trying to get done and where they find added value compared to the alternatives. When this happens, consider this a signal to think about running another round of interviews to make the next step towards understanding user JTBDs.

The absolutely most important part is to do the interviews! Don’t put them off for later. Even a handful of high-quality interviews can be enough to give you a new perspective on your product.