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Asking Compelling Interview Questions

interviews Apr 05, 2021

Do you have a journalist, a reporter, or a podcaster whom you admire based on his or her ability to draw a compelling story out of an individual? During an interview, you, as the podcast host, should have one goal. When you interview someone, whether it is a friend, co-worker, or a seasoned professional, you want to ask compelling questions.


When you hear the word compelling, what comes to mind?

Oxford Languages defines the word compelling as “evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.” When we urge you to write powerful interview questions, what we mean is this. Get to know your subjects well and design your questions in such a way that your audience will want to know them, as well. Here’s an example: when one of the Spark Team members was in junior high school, she took a class on organization and high school preparation. One of her first assignments was to come up with a series of “higher level” questions. The task was daunting at first, but as she continued, she got more comfortable doing this. At the time, the goal of these “higher-level” questions was to make her think abstractly and to develop a curiosity and desire within her and her classmates to comprehend new concepts. Today, she remembers this as one of her most impactful assignments. When it comes down to it, the truth is this: interviewees love inquisitive interviewers. They often like to be challenged to think in new ways and consider their situations from different angles.


Many people have asked both Misty and the Spark team for insight into asking interview questions, researching, and prepping for an interview. In today’s post, the Spark team will share our best-kept secrets for podcast interviews. These include how to approach an interview subject, necessary research and preparation, and strategies for asking questions that apply to any interview to enhance a story, keep listeners engaged, and increase your confidence as a host.


How should I approach a podcast interview?

Even if you have known your interview subject for years, you should approach your interview as if you have never met the person. Once you have established who you will be interviewing, think about this. Most of your listeners are likely not acquainted with the individual that you are interviewing. An interview should serve as an introduction of the person to your audience and an invitation to hear the unique portions of their story that have not been shared before. As a host, the interview subject is trusting you to handle his or her story with care. So, be humble, be kind, and be hospitable to your guests. Always approach every interview with open hands allowing for the Holy Spirit to work through you.


How do I best prepare for an interview?

In the digital climate within which we live today, information about our guests is often at our fingertips. With the click of a mouse, or the press of a button, we can find out anything and everything that we will need to know, and then some, in most cases. Do not go into information overload. Instead, focus on one portion of your guest’s story. One helpful way to do this is to focus on a theme within the person’s story. Ask yourself questions like these.


  • What is the person who I am interviewing known for online and in person?
  • What are this person’s unique talents, giftings, and abilities?
  • How has this person leveraged his or her influence to make a positive impact and/or to spread the gospel?


How do I know what questions to ask my guests?

Once you have determined the theme of your episode and the story worth telling, select questions that draw out the story’s details, these questions can be far-ranging, but they often look something like this. 


  • How did you get started with ____?
  • Why is ____ important or impactful?
  • What is the significance behind ____?
  • Who inspired you to do ____?
  • When did you begin ____?


Every good story (or interview) begins with this framework. You want to know who your guest is, what he or she does, when his or her career started, where it started, how the guest got to be where they are now, and why your guest does what they do. Additionally, to draw further details from your guest, always, always, always, ask follow-up questions.


Why are follow-up questions necessary?

Follow-up questions are necessary for an interview because they provide clarity to the issues being discussed. They also allow for the guest to expand upon an idea or a thought. To ask a great follow-up question, you must first be a great listener. Here are three things that you should be listening for as a host.


What should I listen for in an interview?


Listen for when your guest’s tone of voice changes.

When a guest’s tone changes, there could be a variety of reasons as to why. Some of these reasons could be that your guest is uncomfortable, that he or she is feeling rushed, or that he or she is excited about the topic being discussed. To gain insight into these reasons and more, it is essential that you, as the host, learn to be an attentive listener.


Listen closely for parts of the interview when your questions evoke some emotion in your guest.

As mentioned earlier, the tone of your guest could change for a variety of reasons. Listen closely to this. If your guest gets emotional, you may wish to slow down or stop the interview. If your guest is enthusiastic, you may want to ask more questions based on the topic that excited the guest. Reading guests via audio is difficult, so be sure to turn the video on during the interview so that you can hear the guest’s voice and see his or her facial expressions.


Listen for times when you may need to redirect the conversation.


The last thing that the Spark team recommends listening for is times when your guest may get slightly or majorly off-topic. You want to ensure that you, as a host, are respecting the time of your listeners. You also want to be sure that the topic is a fit for your audience. So, at times, it may be necessary to kindly redirect the conversation. You can do this by saying things like, “thank you for sharing. I have another question about ____.”


Now that you know the foundation of every stellar interview and the things to listen for throughout your conversations, you can go forth and apply this knowledge to your own episodes. We encourage you to try these strategies and to stay tuned for more in the future.

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