[And What to Ask Instead!]
Interview podcasts are a mainstay in the industry. And the interview style podcast is arguably the most popular when it comes to your typical podcast formats. But with so many other hosts out there trying to make a name for themselves too, you need to find consistent ways to help your podcast stand out amongst the vastness of the other podcasts.
And do you know what you don’t want to be while you’re trying to get your awesome interview skills noticed? Boring! That’s what!
And how do you make sure that you’re not boring? By making sure that you’re asking unique questions that really get the best from your guest, add value to your audience, and ones that really allow your guest to shine and flex their respective niche muscles.
And harnessing the skill of asking unique questions is particularly important if your guests tend to also be guests on other podcasts, or have many invitations for speaking engagements. You need to make yours stand out. You want your questions to be different. And this is important not only for the incredible value you’ll add to your audience, but you’ll also be able to give your guest the best experience possible!
If they’ve been asked the same questions over and over again, and you come out with all these great, insightful, unique questions, guess who’s interview they’ll be more likely to remember? Yours!
Related read: How To Improve Your Podcast Interview Skills [10 Do’s And Don’ts]
But how do you know which questions you should be avoiding during your podcast interviews? Well, we have a list of ten questions we think should be left alone whenever you sit down to conduct an interview.
And so you’re not left empty-handed, we’re giving you some great options to put in their place!
Let’s get to it!
1. Any question that will probably end in “Yes”
So, the first tip for conducting interviews is to avoid close-ended questions. These are the kinds of questions that just give you a one-word response. And in this first example, that answer is “yes.” Questions that you can fairly accurately predict will end in a “yes” should be avoided as a simple “yes” adds no value to those listening to the interview. So try and steer clear of questions along the lines of, “Do you love what you do?” etc.
Instead, try something like…
“What brings you the most joy in your line of work?”
This type of question allows your guest the opportunity to share something that they get excited about! Not only will this answer give serious value to your audience, but your guest gets to answer a question that showcases their passion for their subject. And that excitement and passion will be heard loud and clear by your listeners who will come away inspired!
2. Any question That Ends in “No”
In the same vein, avoid those questions that you can guess will more than likely end in a resounding “no.” Again, this type of question and the consequent negative answer adds no value to your audience, but it also doesn’t take your conversation anywhere but a dead end.
So, rather than asking, “Do you have any regrets when looking back at your journey so far?”
Instead, try something like this…
Is there a time or decision in your career you wished turned out differently?
By asking a more open-ended, but focused, question, you create an amazing opportunity for your guest to impart key lessons and take-aways to your guests.
A note on 1 and 2 above: These types questions that elicit one-word, particularly “yes” or “no” don’t tend to allow your guests the opportunity to truly share their hard-won wisdom. But on the other hand, there are probably a whole lot of that you (and your audience) really want to know, but they’re a waste of air time! They can still be included in your list of questions, but rather use them as warm up questions to get the ball rolling, or include a “quick-fire” questions round, but don’t make these types of questions the bulk of your interview.
3. “Tell us a little more about yourself…”
What does that even mean! This question is way too broad! And that means that there is a very slim chance that you’ll get an answer that really matters, or one that adds value to your audience, and your interview as a whole.
Instead, try shaping the question like this…
“What would your parents/siblings/closest friends list as your best characteristics?”
A question like this provides the guest with the opportunity to share more about themselves with you and the audience, but through a focused, and unique perspective.
4. “What’s your greatest accomplishment?”
This question, while yielding an interesting answer perhaps, rarely leads to a meaningful response. All that listeners really get from this question is what the guest views as their biggest accomplishment, they don’t learn anything to help them on their own journey, or anything actionable that they can apply to their own lives.
Try something like this…
“What led to your greatest accomplishment?”
They’ll probably include said greatest accomplishment somewhere in their answer. So you’ll get the answer you were initially shooting for, but now you and your audience will also get a whole lot more! You’ll get actionable steps that can be imitated and applied to your own life. This means that what they hear on your podcast has value besides just being really great information. That’s a definite win!
5. “What’s your greatest failure?”
The reason behind this one is pretty much the same as the previous question. By asking this type of question, all you’re getting is the end result – the failure. But to make your interviews stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need more than that!
Instead, try this…
“What was your biggest take away from what you consider your greatest failure?”
By putting this spin on the old version of a very typical question, a learning opportunity is presented to your audience. This is obviously of massive value! You’re giving your audience something unique, practical, and meaningful, while still keeping the focus on your guest.
6. “Who do you admire the most?”
On the whole, a cool question, and may yield some fun or fascinating answers. But in the end, all you’re really getting is a couple of names. And simply knowing those names is not adding any value to your lives.
How about a question like this instead…
“What are the top three characteristics of the people you admire?”
Again, you’ll more than likely get those above-mentioned names (so, bonus!) but you’ll be getting so much more that you can then share with your listeners. This question oozes value as it is informative, personal (but not obtrusive), gives great insight into your guest and so builds their relationship with your audience.
7. “What’s your favorite motivational quote?”
You usually get a little Robert Frost, Albert Einstein, or Nelson Mandela showing up frequently in response to this type of question. And these quotes are all great! But they’ve been around a long time, and repeated on numerous occasions.
So, why not try something a little different…
“If you had to give advice to your younger self, what would that look like as a motivational quote?”
This is a fun, interactive spin on an old question! And should consistently yield creative and totally unique responses! Which are exactly the boxes you want to tick when it comes to excelling at podcast interviews! This new question keeps the focus on your great guest, but it enables them to offer so much more interest to your audience.
Related read: How To Improve Your Podcast Interview Skills – From Your Guest’s Perspective
8. “How long have you been working in the [fill in the blank] industry?”
This question doesn’t really give you anything other than a quantifiable answer. You’ll get the figure, and that’s where this question ends. What else can you say?
But you could ask a question like this…
“What advice would you give those wanting to get into [fill in the blank] industry?”
With just some small tweaks to the old question, you’re getting key information from your guest which your audience will be hungry for. Your guest is now speaking directly to your audience, letting them in on the secrets of breaking into the industry in question.
9. “Where do you hope to be in ten years?”
On your way to Mars? In a secluded cabin in the mountains? Taking Silicon Valley by storm? All admirable answers, but what value does this offer the audience?
Whenever you can, craft questions designed to offer some actionable tips in the response.
“What are your 5 tips for getting yourself to where you want to be in ten years?”
This provides yet another opportunity for your guest to directly motivate your audience and provide them with great insight into achieving success. And this means that your podcast will be part of their success!
10. What are your best skills/assets?
Self-awareness is great…for yourself…but this answer will not really offer anything meaningful to anyone else.
Instead, delve a little deeper with something like this:
“What’s one skill you wish you had right now, and do you have plans to try and attain it?”
With the answer to this question, you’re allowing a level of vulnerability from your guest, which can make for really special podcast interviews. You’re also providing opportunities for your audience to connect at a deeper level with your guest, as well as your podcast, will can lead to greater support, and a stronger community.
But above all…
Remember, your aim is to really get the best out of your guest, allow them to shine, while giving your audience the best value. All of the above questions are fine, but they don’t go deeper. They don’t provide the opportunity for your guest to share their best insights, their specialist knowledge, and their expert insight. These 10 questions are not going to tank your interviews per se, (on second thought…the “yes” and “no” one’s might…) but with these tweaks, you’re going to be able to take your interview skills to the next level, and you’re going to make your show stand out from the crowd.
And to help you really take your shows to the next level, here are our four top tips for taking your podcast interview from “meh” to AMAZING…
1. Do The Work
There’s no way around it, amazing interviews take a lot of preparation, but the end result is definitely worth it! So do the hard work. Dig into what makes your guest tick. Read their blogs, watch their YouTube videos, study their books. Do the work so that you can reap the rewards come interview time!
2. Never “Wing It!”
The whole “I’ll just wing it” approach does not work when it comes to interviews. There’s a very slim chance that anyone could come with insightful, on-point, relevant-to-the-guest-in-question questions on the spot. I’ll happily wager a bet that even the great Oprah Winfrey still prepares thoroughly before her interviews!
3. Ask Your Audience For Suggestions
Your audience knows what they want to know from your guests, so in your preparation, ask them for question suggestions. Not only will this help you give your audience exactly what they’re looking for in your podcast, but this sort of collaboration is a fantastic way to build your community by getting everyone actively involved. By simply reaching out, you may gain some incredible insights into what to ask your guests, but you’ll also have excellent opportunities for quality listener engagement – and this is a key factor in a podcast’s long-term success.
4. Listen, Listen, Listen
As a podcast listener, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is very little more frustrating or off-putting than a host who constantly interrupts or talks over their guests! (Man, I get frustrated just thinking about it!) Yes, you’ve prepared some incredible questions and you want to get through them all before your time with your guest runs out. But, having your next question ready does not excuse not listening to the current question being answered!
You really need to listen, listen, listen to everything your guest is saying in their responses. By really listening, you’ll be able to actually hear what your guest is saying. By truly listening you’ll be able to ask that insightful follow-up question, ask your guest to elaborate on a point they just made, or you might even find that you need to switch a question or two around in the firing line as those later questions tie in much better with the guest’s recent answers.
Which brings us to the fifth and final tip…
5. Go With The Flow
Yes, this tip sounds like it is in direct conflict to the first tip, but trust us, it’s not! While you must always, always, prepare for your interviews, you also need to be able to follow the flow of the conversation. You might find that the answers your guest is giving is leading your interview into an unexpected – but still valuable! – direction…and you as the host need to be able to a) Identify this change in direction (Hint: LISTEN!), and b) You need to direct your questions to follow that flow.
Learn how to do this, and you’ll stand out head and shoulders from everyone else in your niche! But not only this, you’ll be able to give your guests an incredible platform, and as a result, your podcast will be a place where all other guests want to be!
Related read: Interviewing Podcast Guests: How To Turn Good Questions Into Great Questions