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Podcast Interview Questions Your Listeners Will Love (& Share!)

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Asking great podcast interview questions leads to compelling content. Not only will your existing listeners love it – they’ll want to share your show with everyone they know too!

Interviews are a big part of podcasting – and for good reason.

They break up the potential monotony of one voice talking for too long, they add expertise and gravitas to your episode, and it’s a chance to tap into your interviewee’s own following – a tale of two audiences!

You’ll want to get the most out of your interviewee and maximise their contribution to your cause. That boils down to the conversation you have, and the questions you ask. No pressure.

Here’s what we’ve covered already;

Now it’s down to what you should be asking them! That’s what we’ll cover here. Great podcast interview questions!

There are three parts to this.

First, we’ll go into how to formulate podcast interview questions focused on your own topic, and on the interviewee themselves. Every good interview should be mostly tailored to the person you’re interviewing after all.

Second, we’ll look at the types of more general podcast interview questions you can use to dig deep and get some interesting, unexpected responses.  Bear in mind, of these, some questions will be more relevant to your show than others. Please use responsibly!

And third, we’ll take a look at some frequently asked questions around asking great podcast interview questions. That’s a bit meta, isn’t it?

Alright, let’s start at the core, though – your podcast topic, and your guest’s contribution to it.

asking great podcast interview questions

Core Podcast Interview Questions Around The Episode Topic

  • Tell me About Your Topic.
  • Why is it so important?
  • What are the common myths?

The classic introduction to the topic and the conversation on the whole. You can start by asking for their elevator pitch, which they probably have down to a tee. Or, you can go the extra mile in preparation, and make sure you get something really unique. We’ve written on how to prepare for an interview here.

The common myths part is also good because people like to debunk any false negativity around things they’re passionate about. Give them that opportunity, and they’ll feel good and start to enjoy themselves.

“So, you’re a Vegan Baking Specialist – isn’t it really hard to bake without eggs?”

“Not at all! There are a number of alternatives you can use, from mashed banana to flax seeds. And not only do they bind the mix really well, but I often find that…”

Engage them. Push their buttons.

Another way of doing so is by asking a seemingly-negative question; Why Do People Fail?

“What’s the most common reason for people failing or giving up? Why do writers put their pens down and walk away?”

“Uh… well, obviously, it’s a very competitive market. I think a lot of the time they give up because they’re not getting their work reviewed by the right people. They might have been doing it for two years, but have no real idea of how far they’ve come, or even if they’ve improved at all!”

Your guest might be taken aback slightly, like the example above, but hopefully it’ll spur them into giving you some great answers. Not only will they know the main reason, they’ll have advice to help people overcome it.

Slightly less antagonistic is this conciliatory cutey;

“What are some specific roadblocks to watch out for?”

“Don’t give in too soon. The breakthrough might just be around the corner. Most of your competition today will give up further down the line. You can be the one to succeed because you believed in yourself and stuck at it.”

Much more helpful and sounds less like make-or-break than the “One Reason People Fail” question.

Okay, so sticking with positivity, how about something to help people get started?

“What support and/or resources are available?”

Your guest will no doubt have some great contacts, as well as be able to point people towards online communities, FAQs, walkthrough guides and more.

a podcaster on a bike

Core Podcast Interview Questions About The Interviewee

Let’s focus on the guest themselves, now. Because people love to hear things in context.

“Believe in yourself and never give up!” is all good and well, but people often can’t see that applying to them… until they hear a story about it happening to someone else.

  • Which hurdles did you personally face and how did you overcome them?
  • Was it obvious or did you stumble upon the answer(s)?
  • How did you get started? Talk me through it.
  • What compelled you to become a screenwriter?

“Well, I came from a working class background. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but it’s amazing how you make do with what you have. I saved up to go to night school, and…”

Podcaster in space, podcaster astronaut: PODCASTRONAUT!

Super Podcast Interview Questions: Producing a Unique Interview

You’ve covered the basics by now, the usual questions around the topic and your interviewee’s relevance to it. But how do you really set your interview with that person apart from the rest?

Let’s look at some questions that might be considered unusual, out of the box, or from left field.

The purpose of these lines of enquiry isn’t necessarily to get raw information. They’re more about stimulating your guest into giving your podcast something really interesting.

The famed American TV show, Inside the Actor’s Studio, does this to great effect by asking famous actors and performers such questions, including the following;

  • What is your favourite word?
  • What sound or noise do you love?
  • What is your favourite curse word?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

As you can see, they have almost no relevance to any specific films the actors appeared in, but are simply there to inspire the guests to say something interesting and evocative.

Some Specific Super Podcast Interview Question Examples

On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?

CEOs are known to ask this one. Just imagine the kooky and varied responses you’ll get from people!

Expect them to be taken by surprise for a moment. Give them time and encouragement to think, and they’ll soon flood you with tales of dipping sandwiches into coffee,  and how they always – always – wear purple underwear ever since they were a kid. They’ll be glad to tell you.

What are you NOT Very Good at?

They’ve spent so long talking about themselves by now that maybe they’re feeling like a bit of a blowhard. They might be glad of the chance to show their humility.

If someone’s listening to the podcast and thinking, “Wow that person’s really good. They know their stuff,” the listener might actually feel intimidated and discouraged. A little anecdote from the guest about how hopeless they are at golf or DIY might just help the listener to remember that we ALL have strengths and weaknesses.

Tell me something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

This is a cleverly complex little teaser. Will they decry global warming as a myth? Declare the existence of ghosts? Predict that Soccer will eventually be the top sport in the USA? (You never know).

This question puts the guest somewhat on the spot, but at the same time, the answer they give is entirely up to them. Hope for something crazy!

Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?

Clearly, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but the answer will tell you something about the person. Like how much they value leisure time, and how they prioritise certain tasks.

Even if they struggle to put one priority over another, that’ll show you how important their tasks are to them.

Great podcast interview questions FAQ
Smart devices, AI and automated systems can do a lot, but you have to tell them what to do, first.

Great Podcast Interview Questions: FAQ

So far, we’ve covered core questions around your topic, your guest, and we’ve thrown in some fun “generic” stuff, too.

Now it’s time to answer some frequently asked questions around… well, asking questions.

Should I Send Questions in Advance to my Podcast Guests?

I’d argue that it’s a good idea to send at least some questions to your interviewee in advance. It can help to settle nerves, and often produces better answers.

This is particularly important if you plan to include a few of the ‘super questions’ above, which can sometimes catch people off guard.

It’s easy to think: “Well, I’d quite like an unrehearsed answer,” but, as you’d imagine, unrehearsed tends to be a bit hit and miss. It depends a lot on how quick and agile the interviewee is feeling that particular day. Some more experienced interviewees can think on their feet, but certain questions may still benefit from an advanced warning.

Asking About Favourites: Books, Films, Software, etc

As we covered in the section above, throwing a “what’s your favourite book?” at your guest out of the blue will have them scrambling for an answer. They don’t want to give their genuine answer of Fifty Shades of Grey, but blurting out Meditations by Marcus Aurelius sounds too cliched and forced.

Giving your podcast guest a heads-up about this type of question in advance of your chat can lead to a much more satisfactory answer for all. When you’re arranging the chat, just let them know that you’re going to ask them for their top three movies, tools, or, even, pet peeves. This will lead to much better answers and, crucially, much better content for your target audience.

You can even automate this to make your life easy. You can see here how I use Book like a Boss to send preparation and reminder emails that do just that.

when the answer to a podcast interview question takes too long

How Much Time Should Their Answers Take?

This is one of podcasting’s many “piece of string” scenarios. An answer should take as long as it needs to, but no longer. “What time did you go to bed?” is going to be a quicker one to answer than “tell us about your childhood”.

Podcasting is a great medium for long and in-depth answers because there’s no official time limit. That said, if you or your guest start to bore your listener, they will switch off.

If you want to keep answers on the shorter side and prevent guests from rambling, then a lot of this is down to the question itself. The “tell us about your childhood” question could, in theory, take weeks to answer. Instead, you might want to focus that a bit more.

“What’s your favourite childhood memory?”

“Your best friend broke your nose when you were 12 – how did that happen?”

“Your parents moved around a lot when you were young – did that make it difficult for you to fit in?”

These are more specific to a particular aspect of their childhood, and the idea is that you’re honing in on something that’ll be interesting and relevant to your own audience.

Of course, if your guest does go off on a meandering tangent, don’t be afraid to step in and re-focus them with a relevant follow-up question.

chicken interviews fox

Asking for Career or Life Advice

We’ve all heard the saying “do what I say, not what I do”. But if you’re asking an industry role model for some actionable advice on how to get where they are, it’s better to take the opposite approach.

When people are asked to give advice, they will often come up with something clever-sounding but random. “Get up at five” or “Have seven cups of green tea a day” might sound like some amazing secret life hack, but will either of them help you become the next CEO of IBM?

Instead, you want to really get into the nuts and bolts of their journey, from where they started, to where they are now. This is where you and your listener can draw the real gold from.

Podcast conversations should sound natural

How Do I Have a Natural-Sounding Conversation With My Guest?

The key here is in that word “conversation”.

Some podcast hosts act like game show hosts, armed with their list of questions, and determined to batter through them at all costs.

A lot of podcast interview gold is found in follow-up questions, so actually listen to what your interviewee is saying. This should be a given, but it’s amazing how many podcasters seem to be focusing all their attention on the next written question in front of them.

Guest – “… so yeah, that’s when I realised I’d accidentally turned my microwave into a time machine.”

Host – “Uh huh. And what’s your favourite WordPress plugin?”

A natural conversation is a two-way exercise in curiosity and attention. Podcast interviews shouldn’t be like a Q&A session, unless that’s the type of format you’re intentionally going for.

Remember – Your Content Always Starts With Your Audience

If you’re on the fence about asking a particular podcast interview question, simply put yourself in the shoes (earbuds) of your listener. This helps if you have a podcast avatar, but so long as you have a well-defined topic, then this will be just as easy.

You and your guest might have a shared love for red wine. But if they’re on your business startup podcast to offer tax advice, then it might not be worth the metaphorical trip into the vineyard.

Of course, you can ask a few not-quite-on-topic personal questions towards the end, once the value has been served up. If your guest has really engaged, helped, and entertained your listener, then they’ll start to want to know a little more about them.

Next Steps

Here’s your reading list as you continue your quest to become a world-class podcast interviewer…


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