“There are no dumb questions.”
I’ve heard this quote hundreds of times. You likely have, too.
Is this quote true? I’m not sure.
But what I do know is that you don’t want to find out when you’re in the middle of an interview with your dream guest. It’s probably best to assume that there ARE some dumb questions.
Before you hit record you should study your guest and make a list of quality questions.
What questions should you ask? That’s what we’re going to help you discover next.
This blog will show you:
- 90 Great Podcast Questions to Ask Your Guests
- 17 Bonus Questions from Veteran Podcasters
- How to Come Up with Your Own (Original) Questions
90 Great Podcast Interview Questions
- How are you doing, for real?
- What has been going on in your life recently that you expected and didn’t expect?
- What has been on your mind recently that you hope to share with listeners?
- What did you have for breakfast today?
- How do you feel about [current event/breaking news/topic]?
- What is your favorite drink?
- What is your favorite meal?
- Who is your favorite artist?
- Where are you from (tell your origin story)?
- What books have changed your life the most?
- What is the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your life?
- What is your favorite state?
- What is your favorite country to visit?
- What goals are you pursuing right now?
- What are your favorite hobbies and pastimes?
- Who has made the most influence in your life?
- Who has taught you the most about your craft/career/hobby/etc?
- Who is the one person that you admire the most (alive or dead)?
- Who do you want to be like when you grow up?
- When did you first start learning about your craft?
- When have you grown the most in your life and what caused that growth?
- Where did you learn how to do your main craft?
- Where is your favorite place to vacation?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What motivates you to get up in the morning? Are you driven by relationships, money, success, etc?
- What have you learned about yourself recently? What do you think about dating and relationships?
- How did you get to where you are today in your life/career/etc?
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- What is your enneagram number?
- What is your Myer’s Briggs personality?
- What is your spirit animal?
- What’s one idea that you think the majority of people get wrong?
- Where would you never visit, even if you were paid $1M dollars?
- What’s your morning routine?
- Are you a night owl or an early bird?
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
- What was the best year of your life? What was the worst year of your life?
- How have you changed the most over the last year?
- What is your favorite season of the year?
- When was the best year of your life? When was the worst year of your life?
- What is the most embarrassing moment of your life (so far)?
- What 5 people would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
- Would you rather spend 1 year at The North Pole or 2 years in the Sahara desert?
- Who is your celebrity crush?
- What superpower do you wish that you had?
- What is your spiciest opinion that most people disagree with?
- What couples do you look up to the most or want your own life to look like?
- What qualities are important for you in a partner?
- What ‘rules’ do you have for relationships?
- What are red flags in a relationship?
- What is your love language? Words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, or quality time?
- What do you enjoy the most about dating?
What do you hate the most about dating?
- Would you be willing to go on a blind date? Why or why not?
- When, if ever, do you think you would get married?
- When do you want to stop dating and settle down?
- Where do you enjoy going on dates?
- How did you first meet your partner?
- How do you set healthy boundaries in a relationship?
- Have you changed because of your partner? Have you changed them? Follow-up question: What changed?
- What do you think friendship means? How do you think a healthy friendship should look?
- What are red flags in a friendship?
- What should a healthy friendship look like?
- How have your friendships changed as you grew up and moved through new seasons of life (college, early career, etc)?
- How do you make new friends?
- Who are your best friends and why?
- What do you think about the phrase “you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with?”
- When do you think it’s time to move on from a friendship since it feels one-sided?
Mental Health Questions
- What does mental health mean to you?
- What was your perspective on mental health growing up versus now?
- Did you have conversations about mental health growing up?
- Why is mental health important to you personally?
- What habits do you have to take care of your mental health?
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your mental health?
- What are your favorite mental health resources (books, podcasts, people, apps, etc)?
Business and Professional Life Questions
- What are your favorite brands? Who is doing business right?
- Who are your favorite people to follow in business? Who do you look up to?
- What do you think good company culture is?
- What values are important to you when you think about the kind of business you want to build?
- What books have shaped your career the most?
- How did you get into your current line of work?
- What is one idea that experts in your field say that you disagree with?
- What is your favorite part of your job? What is your least favorite part?
- Where can people go to learn more about you?
- What can people expect from you next?
- What is one final thought that you want to leave our listeners with?
- If you had the attention of the whole world for 5 minutes, what would you say?
- What is your favorite quote?
- Is there anything we haven't covered that you want to say before we close out?
- What was your favorite part of this episode?
- How can listeners support you and your work?
💡 Pro Tip: Use the outro of your show to ask the same question of each guest. This can create a fun ritual that listeners will look forward to each episode. For example, the Everything is Marketing podcast ends each episode by asking the guest “what does it mean to you that everything is marketing?”
17 Bonus Questions from Veteran Podcasters
Questions from Unlocking Us with Brené Brown
Unlocking Us with Brené Brown is a podcast that interviews some of the world's most influential leaders. Brené uses rapid-fire questions near the end of an episode to get to know her guests in an entertaining way.
Here are some of the questions:
- The last TV show that you binged and loved?
- Favorite movie?
- A concert that you’ll never forget?
- What’s one of your favorite meals of all time?
- What’s on your nightstand?
- What’s one thing that you are deeply grateful for right now?
Eleven Questions from Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris
Tribe of Mentors is a book that compiles hundreds of interviews between Tim Ferris and world-class performers. In it, he uses the same eleven questions for each of his guests. As you read through it you get to hear a very wide and diverse set of answers to the same questions.
Side note: You can read a free sample chapter of the book here, which I highly recommend. Ok, back to the main reason I'm bringing this up.
Tim also hosts one of the all-time most successful podcasts to date, The Tim Ferris Show. Use these questions to get inspiration for yourself, or simply ask your guest these questions directly (and give Tim a shoutout).
- What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
- What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
- How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
- If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
- What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
- What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
- In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
- What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
- What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
- In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
- When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
How to Come Up with Your Own (Original) Questions
1. Study Your Target Audience and Customize Questions For Them
Everything about your podcast should be centered around one thing: Your target audience. Spend time studying your listeners as much as you can to learn about their values, beliefs, desires, and dreams. If you understand some of the common pains and struggles your audience goes through you can come up with
Study your audience online in subreddits, Quora, with an audience research tool like Sparktoro. Watch their favorite YouTubers. Subscribe to their favorite newsletters. Follow their favorite influencers on social media. Reach out to listeners directly by sending a survey or running polls on social media.
2. Use Who/What/When/Where/Why/How to Generate Unique Ideas
This short list of questions, also known as the five w’s, is an excellent way to use first principles to unlock new creative questions. The six (not five) questions that are commonly used in journalism are:
I used this framework to generate many of the ideas in this blog. I would simply pick a topic like “personal questions,” write down each of the five w’s, then start generating a short list of questions under each category. You can follow this framework to create your own new questions, too.
3. Use Question Formulas to Generate Ideas Quickly
Many of our favorite questions can actually be used as a formula or template. Look for inspiration in book titles, conversations with friends, or other podcasts, and make the questions unique by swapping out the information inside of the question.
Here are a few question formulas to get your creative juices flowing:
Do you like [This] or [that]?
- Do you like dogs or cats?
- Do you like Mac or Windows?
- Do you like Chick-Fil-A or Arbys?
Would you rather [option one] or [option two]?
- Would you rather eat a scorpion’s brain or frog legs?
- Would you rather see out of your ears or smell with your feet?
If you could wave a magic wand and change anything, what would you change about [object/organization/person/place]?
- If you could wave a magic wand and change anything, what would you change about Disney World?
If you were on a desert island, what one [object] would you bring?
- If you were on a desert island, what one drink would you bring?
- If you were on a desert island, what one comic book would you bring?
- If you were on a desert island and had one choice, would you choose WiFi or a shower?
How do you pronounce [funny word]?
- How do you pronounce t-o-m-a-t-o?
- How do you pronounce g-i-f?
- How do you pronounce n-i-c-h-e?
What is your favorite [object]?
- What is your favorite podcast?
- What is your favorite book?
- What is your favorite song?
- What is your favorite quote?
- What is your favorite cereal?
Who is your favorite [job title/character/type of person]?
- Who is your favorite sports team?
- Who is your favorite philosopher?
- Who is your favorite author?
- Who is your favorite celebrity?
What is your dream [object/relationship/place/idea]?
- What is your dream house like?
- What is your dream car?
- What does your dream retirement look like?
- What dream invention do you wish was a reality?
4. Know Which Questions to Avoid
It’s just as important to know what not to ask. Make sure you do some good research on your guests to know what topics they like talking about and what their life backstory is.
The more you know about your guest, the more you can ask them questions without worrying about being tone-deaf to inappropriate topics.
Take the time before you hit record to ask your guest if there’s anything they would rather not talk about. Some shows make a name for themselves by digging into those “off-topic areas,” but just make sure your guest is on board with that before you hit record.
5. Come Up With A Signature Question For Your Show
A signature question is a question that you ask on each episode of your show that closely ties into the theme of your podcast. An example of a signature question is
The thing I love about signature questions is that if you ask one question to each guest on your podcast, you’re bound to get dozens of different answers. This diversity of answers and ideas is a wonderful way to learn new things and expand your own perspective.
- Guy Raz asks each founder on How I Built This “How much of your success do you attribute to luck? How much do you attribute to hard work?”
- Corey Haines asks each of his guests “what does the phrase everything is marketing mean to you” on his podcast, Everything is Marketing.
- Ben Terry and Josh Jean-Marie of How You Create ask their guests four simple questions: (1) How do you create, (2) what tools do you use, (3) how do you make money?,(4) how much money do you make?
If you want to have an authentic conversation with your guests you need to ask great questions.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
- Always prepare before you interview a guest
- We shared 90 questions to get started, plus 17 extra questions from Brené Brown and Tim Ferris
- Study your target audience to craft your own authentic questions
- Use the five w’s (who/what/when/where/why.. and how) to craft your own unique questions.
- Use question formulas to generate even more ideas
- Know which questions NOT to ask your guest
- Create a signature question for your show so listeners will get excited to hear each guest answer it.
Once you’ve prepped for your interview its time to schedule it and hit record. Learn how to record a podcast (in 5 easy steps) here.