Interviews are a big part of podcasting, and for good reasons.
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.
We’ve covered how to record an interview extensively, so now it’s down to what you should be asking them! That’s what we’ll cover here.
There are two parts to this.
First, we’ll go into how t0 formulate interview questions focussed on your own topic, and on the interviewee themselves. Every good interview should be mostly tailored to the person you’re interviewing after all.
But, second, we’ll look at the types of more general 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!
Core Interview Questions Around The 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.
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 being able to point people towards online communities, FAQs, walkthrough guides and more.
Core Interview Questions About The Interviewee
Let’s focus on the guest themselves, 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 screen writer?
“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
Should I Send the Interview Questions in Advance?
I’d argue that, almost always, it’s a good idea to send the 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’ below, 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. You’ll find, though, that a lot of experienced interviewees.
If you do include a few of the same ‘super’ or topic related questions each time, then 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.
Super 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, but to stimulate 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 favorite word?
- What turns you on?
- What sound or noise do you love?
- What is your favorite 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 into saying something interesting and invocative.
Some Specific Super 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, 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.
How to Make Editing & Production Easier Afterward
Remember, once you’ve captured that amazing interview, here’s a way to make the editing and production even easier. It’s a production app – Alitu – which automates processing and helps you with editing. It’ll take your interview recording, polish it up, add your theme music, allow you to easily add a spoken intro or outro, and then it’ll export and publish it to your Podcast host of choice. You can also edit out any mistakes or side-tracks if you need to!
It gives you more time for the prep, and that’s what you should be doing, rather than fiddling with EQ and compression! You can get a 7-day free trial to give it a shot right now. Pop over to Alitu.com to try it out!