You’ve landed the person who’s been at the top of your wishlist since you first dreamt up your podcast. Or maybe it’s your very first podcast interview…ever. Now all you have to do is impress your guest by asking the best podcast questions they’ve ever encountered.
First question: How do you do that?
There isn’t a list of “the best podcast questions” that you can copy and paste into every podcast interview for guaranteed success. That would be really boring. The real answer is, it depends on who you’re speaking to, their expertise, how much time you have, and your podcast theme.
Instead of simply giving you a list of podcast question ideas (although we have done that as well… keep reading), we first go a little deeper with an explainer on how to come up with your own interview questions. In this post, you’ll find the following:
- How to prepare for a podcast interview
- What to do right before you hit record
- 63 podcast interview questions
- How to be a good interviewer
So, let’s dive into it, podcasters! 👇👇
How to prepare for a podcast interview
There’s a sweet spot when it comes to preparing interview questions to ask your guest. Research too much about them, and it moves from a conversation to a creepily specific interrogation. Wing it entirely and things could get very awkward very fast.
Here’s how to strike a balance between asking informed questions and letting the conversation flow naturally…
✅ Get up to date on your podcast guest
People who appear as guests on podcasts often have personal websites and social media pages. That’s probably how you found out about them in the first place. We’re not advocating full-on social media scouring. But it would be silly not to use readily available information they’ve already published.
Look at their LinkedIn to check what’s going on in their career. They may have changed jobs recently, and you don’t want to find yourself asking about a role they’ve already left. Especially if it was a less-than-amicable departure.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are also valuable and easily accessible sources of information, usually of the more personal kind. If something is going on in their personal life — a new baby, a marriage, a move, a divorce, a death — they may have posted about it on one of these sites.
This information may inform your questions, but even if it doesn’t, knowing what’s happening in a person’s life may influence how you treat them. If they just broke up with their partner, for example, you know not to make break-up jokes.
✅ Consume their work
Especially if they’re a chef!
Bad jokes aside, if you know you’re interviewing someone who writes books, hosts a podcast, has a YouTube channel, or otherwise publishes work, take the time to investigate some of it.
Don’t be like the Australian journalist who was forced to admit halfway through an exclusive interview with Adele that he hadn’t listened to her new album. You probably won’t be embarrassed on an international scale like he was: but it will make for an awkward interview moment, one that you may not recover from for the rest of the podcast episode.
This isn’t just about flattering your guest’s ego. You can’t ask informed questions about their work, career path, and inspirations if you don’t even know what they’ve created. You don’t have to read all 12 romance novels or watch all 314 videos. But consume enough to get an understanding of their style and approach.
✅ Read or listen to other interviews
This one is a bit tricky. Interviews are a great source of information. You can find out what kinds of questions guests like, what subjects they do well with, and whether they’re good at telling stories or prefer one-word answers. Their work alone can’t necessarily give you this kind of insight.
For example, journalist Joan Didion is famous for her thoughtful essays based on interviews with people including Jim Morrison and The Doors, and Manson Family member Linda Kasabian. But interviews with Didion reveal she is not a big fan of being on the other side of questions.
However, consuming too many existing interviews with your guest can also take some of the freshness out of your own interaction.
You’re more likely to start asking the same questions as those previous interviewers, which is boring for your podcast audience. Plus, when you already know the answer, you’re less likely to listen. It stops being a conversation and starts being a checklist.
Aim to read or listen to two to three interviews: Enough to get a sense of their background and their interview style, but not enough to overwhelm your own question ideas.
✅ Make a list of podcast interview questions — but be prepared to go off-script
If you’re nervous about your interview, it can be helpful to make a list of questions in advance. If you find yourself floundering, you can glance at your notes and get back on track. Even if you’re not nervous, this will help make sure you touch on every subject you want to.
Pro tip: If you’re interviewing your guest over a video call (which you can easily do with SquadCast!), stick your questions up on the wall behind the camera. That way, if you need to consult your list, you can look in the vague direction of the camera lens, rather than at your desk.
Your list should be a prompt, not a script. Not only does reading questions verbatim sound a little like a quiz show, it means you might miss the opportunity to dig deeper into their responses. See each question as a potential starting point that can branch out into further conversation, not as the sum total of how you’ll approach that topic.
✅ Remember your podcast theme
If you’ve designed your podcast well, you’ve probably identified a specific niche. That’s one way you build your community. Your listeners know what themes you cover, and they expect you to stick to them. Which means your questions should align with those expectations.
For example, Espree Devora, host of the Women in Tech Podcast, probably wouldn’t start an interview by asking her guest about their preferred color of nail polish, or what they like to cook. If it comes up naturally, or the research shows that it’s an area they’re particularly interested in, then she might adapt. But guests and listeners typically expect questions based on the general theme of the show.
If you’re stumped or want to make sure your podcast interview questions are as relevant as possible, listen to other similar shows. Listeners often find new podcasts in their podcast apps by browsing categories they already listen to. Find the shows that are ranking well, and listen to a few episodes for ideas.
3 great podcast interview questions you should always remember
There are three questions every podcast interviewer should have up their sleeve, even if they don’t use them in every show.
1. How did that make you feel?
You don’t always have to phrase it like this, but the idea remains the same. Listeners connect most deeply with guests’ feelings: not just the sad ones, but in moments of comedy too. Dig into your guest’s emotional reactions, not just what they saw and what happened, for a deeper interview experience.
2. Is there anything you wanted to add?
Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve missed, but your guest will. Often they’ll say that they covered everything, but they might just offer up a nugget of gold you otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. You can always edit out a boring answer later!
3. Your signature question
Some podcast hosts have a thematically appropriate signature question they ask every guest. For example, Guy Raz of NPR’s entrepreneurial show How I Built This always asks his guests how much of their success came down to luck and how much came down to hard work.
This creates a natural ending for every podcast episode where one might otherwise not exist, and brings it back to the theme of building a business. It also creates a level of consistency, which many podcast listeners appreciate.
What to do right before you hit record
You’ve prepared your interview questions, you’ve connected with your guest and you’re about to start recording. Before you jump in, here are two more steps to make sure you have a great podcast interview.
Warm up your guest’s conversational skills
Interviews aren’t the same as conversations: They should be much more one-sided, with your guest doing a good 80% of the talking. However, interviews do need to flow like conversations, and like conversations, it’s hard to jump right into a deep and meaningful interview without a little warm-up first.
When you connect with your guest to record, spend a few minutes or so chatting off the record first. You can use this time to check their audio, as well as gauging their mood and their style of talking. Do they take long pauses? If so, you need to be careful not to interrupt them before they’ve finished their point. Do they talk fast? You’d better pay extra attention!
Turn on the charm. Ask them about their day, talk about where they live, their family. It shouldn’t be a long conversation, especially since you might not have that much time with them. But a little familiarity and warmth can lay the foundation for a more insightful interview.
Get clear on your guest’s boundaries
Before you start, if you haven’t already, find out if there are any topics your guest doesn’t want to cover. For example, they might not want to talk about their personal life on a career-focused show.
This depends somewhat on the type of podcast you’re making. If you’re doing a true crime podcast and you’re interviewing the detective in charge of the case, obviously you have to ask them questions they’d prefer not to answer. (And probably won’t answer.)
However, if you’re making an interview-style podcast rather than an investigative piece, it’s helpful to know about subjects that are off the table ahead of time. This can also help build trust with your guest, which can lead them to open up more.
63 podcast interview questions to ask your guest
To help you get started, here are some questions that can help you kick off a great interview. They’re divided into general categories, but even if your podcast topic fits very clearly into one category, give the interview questions in the others a skim too. You never know what might come up!
This isn’t an exhaustive or definitive list of podcast questions or question ideas, and it’s not a checklist either. Treat it as a collection of prompts to inspire you in your interviews.
Getting to know your guest
- How do you feel about your name?
- What’s your biggest pet peeve?
- What is your morning routine?
- Do you eat to live or live to eat?
- What is the best compliment you can give yourself?
- What’s your most embarrassing memory?
- What’s your favorite interview question?
- If you could hang out with one historical figure for a day, in your time or theirs, who would it be and when?
- What was your favorite subject at school?
- How would you spend an extra hour every day?
- If your worst enemy wrote your dating profile, what would they say?
Family and relationships
- Where did you grow up?
- Do you ever go back there?
- What’s your favorite childhood memory?
- How would your parents describe you today and as a teenager?
- How would your siblings describe you?
- What important lesson do you want your kids to learn?
- What was your favorite trip as a family?
- What’s the story your family tells about you whenever you introduce them to someone new?
- What are the life hacks you think every parent should know?
- What are the most important lessons you hope to pass on to your kids?
- How did you meet your partner?
- What’s your favorite funny story to tell about your relationship?
- Do you think your kids would like your younger self?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- What has been your favorite job so far?
- What has been the most significant turning point in your career?
- What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
- What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?
- Who has been your most important professional mentor?
- What is your favorite productivity hack?
- What’s a common myth or something people misunderstand about your profession?
- How do you balance life and work?
- If you could go back in time, would you choose the same career path?
- What are your three favorite movies? Why?
- What’s the last new skill you learned?
- What’s your favorite holiday movie?
- What book do you always buy for other people?
- What book do you wish more people had read?
- Where did you take your favorite vacation?
- What is the best life lesson you learned from a movie or a book?
- What are the best podcasts you’ve ever listened to?
- What are your favorite podcast topics?
- What song do you always get stuck in your head?
- What song do you listen to when you feel sad?
- What song do you know all the words to?
- What was the best moment of your life?
- What was the worst moment of your life? How did you handle it?
- What moment changed your life forever?
- What do you do when you passionately disagree with someone you love?
- What challenges are you most worried about facing in the future?
- What caused your last break up?
- What’s your biggest fear?
- What do you think your younger self would make of your life today?
- How would you like to be remembered?
Follow up questions
- How did that make you feel?
- Were you worried?
- What happened next?
- What did you do next?
- What did they say?
- What did you say?
- Would you do it differently now?
How to be a good interviewer
As the podcast host, it’s your job to steer the conversation in a direction you think your listeners will like, and to create an interview podcast that’s insightful and relevant. Here are three tips for hosting a great interview.
✅ Listen more than you speak
Your podcast audience probably feels a certain affinity with you, but they downloaded this episode because they wanted to hear from the guest, not you!
When you ask a question, listen carefully to your guest’s answer. Give them room to speak. Don’t interrupt them, and don’t answer their anecdote with an anecdote about yourself. Your job is to guide the conversation in a way that best spotlights your guest. Asking smart podcast interview questions can do that, but so can knowing when to be quiet.
✅ Ask for more detail
If your podcast guest mentions something interesting in passing, make a note to go follow up on it with them when they’ve finished speaking. Similarly, if you feel like their answer to your interview question was too vague, gently ask them for more detail.
✅ Don’t be afraid of stupid questions
Contrary to what some people will tell you, there is such thing as a stupid podcast interview question. That’s why you do research: to make sure you don’t actually ask them!
These are usually personal questions: asking someone about their spouse when they’ve been through a very public divorce, or about a job they’ve told you they were fired from.
What isn’t stupid is asking a question you know the answer to, but want your guest to elaborate on. For example, if you’re talking to an expert and you want them to explain a concept for the sake of a soundbite.
Also, if your guest says something you don’t understand, ask them to explain it more clearly. You represent your listeners, so you need to make sure the information you’re capturing suits their purposes. If you don’t understand the way your guest has phrased their answer, chances are someone in your podcast audience won’t either.
Interviewing can feel intimidating when you first start. But if you do your research, listen closely, and show real interest in what your guest says, you’ll not only have more fun than you think, your audience will love listening too.
Natasha Lavender is a writer, editor and podcast nerd. She has a BA in English and American Literature from the University of Birmingham in the UK, which proved especially useful when she moved to Chicago, IL, in 2016. This content was produced collaboratively with PodReacher.