When you’re interviewing a guest on your podcast, you want to throw them a few curve balls that’ll make the show a real home run.
Your questions need to be thought-provoking, considerate, and personable so listeners can hear the human within the artist or the expert you’re speaking with.
In order to get those more raw, intimate answers, you need to build a connection with your guest. Butter them up with a few softies that’ll help them get loose and feel more comfortable opening up during the interview.
You’ll know you’ve broken the ice with them when their answers sound more fluid their tone becomes more relaxed. It’s always a good sign if you make them laugh a little, too.
Along you with your simple, go-to questions like: “Tell us a little about yourself and your project,” “How long have you been working in this industry,” “What have you learned from your work,” “How do you hope to impact your audience,” and “What are your overarching goals,” you need to balance them out with some truly hard-hitting questions that make them really think for a moment.
Throughout this article, we’re going to cover some of our most impactful questions we ask on our own podcast, Tech Qualified.
These questions have evoked some of the most interesting responses from our guests and their answers really resonated with us as well as our listeners.
What’s the biggest challenge you have with your specific role right now and how are you going to overcome it?
First, do your research. You already know what your guest does for a living, but do a little digging and break-ground on what their job traditionally entails.
Every career path, whether they’re an artist, a musician, or a scientist, will have its mountains to climb. So, go on a journey and climb those mountains with your interviewee. Get the inside scoop on how they plan to overcome those challenges while you’re at it, too.
Not only will this question reveal a more human side to your interviewee’s work, but it also gives both of you the opportunity to inspire and impact your listeners with their response.
What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had in the last few months and why?
Keep riding the inspiration out. Despite any challenges your guest may face during their 9-to-5, there’s always going to be an upside.
If your guest is working on a specific project, perhaps a video game or a tech gadget, this gives them a chance to plug some unique features that’ll hype up your audience even more for your interviewee’s project.
Additionally, your guest’s response will give you and your audience an idea of what keeps the type of surprises that keep them motivated and passionate about their work.
If you had an extra $X,XXX of budget…how would you spend it and why?
Now, put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Budget challenges can present a lot of strain on both the project and the mastermind behind it. If you were them, would you use the extra funds on development, manufacturing, marketing, or something entirely different?
Even if your guest comes from an affluent background or has investors, a little extra money can go along way. On the other hand, if your guest is managing to pursue their project with an especially tight-budget, imagine how they would respond to the question.
In either case, this is a discussion point that’ll really make your interviewee think for a moment.
How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things within your role?
What research might their role entail? Do they browse through the latest articles pertaining to their industry as they sip on their morning coffee, or do they spend their lunch breaks carousing through research papers? Maybe your guest even attends classes or seminars on the weekends to stay on top of their ever-changing field, despite having spent years pursuing a college degree. However, you won’t know until you ask.
This question is also of great interest to your listeners, as it’ll give them a few ideas on how to learn more about an industry they may be interested in pursuing, as well.
What’s been the biggest failure in the last year and why do you think that happened?
Remember, not all of your questions can be peaches and cream. Once your guest sounds more comfortable and open to answering your deeper questions, ask them what their biggest failure was in the last year.
It could be something as disappointing as falling just a few dollars short of their budget so they had to cut some corners, or it could be as devastating as losing the bulk of their resource files and having to start from scratch.
But even a question like this can be inspiring, so encourage your interviewee not to be too hard on themselves. Just as they’ve overcome some of the biggest challenges within their role, they’ve also made it through to the other side of what felt like their biggest failure.
What’s the biggest area (related to your role) you are curious about and why? Or, what are some of the things you’re researching the most right now?
This question ties a bit into how they keep learning in order to stay on top of their role, but it dives more into the technical aspect of their extracurricular pursuits.
Experts will have a burning question pertaining to their industry, regardless of whether they’re fresh out of college or have been involved in their line of work for decades.
For example, an engineer could be researching AI consciousness, whether it’s possible, how to implement it practically, and what the implications may be. Whereas a neuroscientist could be researching where consciousness may present itself in the brain.
Your interviewee’s response will be interesting and it’ll reveal a bigger-picture aspect to their work. Knowing what they’re most curious about or what they’re currently researching will shed some light on their core values, as well.
Additional Podcast Interview Tips
Do Your Research
We can not stress this enough: do your research. It’ll be very obvious if you invite a guest on to your show and throw questions at them without learning more about their work first. Sure, you know who they are and what they’re working on, but you need to explore what they’ve already talked about on their website and social media.
If your guest has already been interviewed – especially if it was within the last few weeks or months of your interview with them – listen to that podcast or read that article to figure out what they’ve already been asked. The last thing you want to do is bore your guest with generic-sounding questions they’ve already answered a hundred times.
Connect With Your Guest
While you want your guest to do all of the talking, don’t be afraid to share your two cents, either. The interview will feel more smooth and natural if you build a connection so it feels more like they’re talking to a friend, rather than just another podcast host.
If your interviewee feels understood by you, they’ll be more inclined to respond to your questions more in-depth. Your listeners will appreciate the more candid-feel of the interview this way, too.
Plus, you can always edit out your portion of sharing if you’d rather the podcast be solely focused on your guest. Or, you can schedule a call with them prior to the interview to go over your questions and tell them a little about yourself. That way the interview isn’t their first-time speaking to you and the connection has already been established.
Take Your Time
Go slow. Take your time when reading the questions and give your interviewee a moment to pause before answering. It’s also important to wait a moment before moving on to the next question, as that slight bit of silence may prompt the guest to keep expanding on their answer.
If your guest seems particularly stumped by a question, you can always circle back around to it later in the interview, after they’ve had a bit more time to think about their response.
They may also find themselves answering that hard-question while going through your other discussion points.
There’s a lot that goes into interviewing behind the scenes. You have to establish an open-space where the interviewee feels comfortable peeling-back their professional mask a bit to reveal a more personable side to themselves and their work.
In our experiences hosting Tech Qualified, these are some of the most impactful questions to ask during a podcast interview. The answers always leave us and our listeners quite a bit to think about in regards to the guest, their latest project, and their field as a whole.
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