How to Craft Exceptional Interview Questions: A Comprehensive Guide

These FAQ resources address the most common questions that people may have when it comes to planning, preparing for, conducting, and analysing interviews for various purposes. These FAQs are applicable to a wide range of industries and situations, such as academic research, radio broadcasting, podcast or webinar hosting, journalism, job interviews, and many others. The information provided also delves into specific aspects of the interview process, including planning for individual or group/focus group interviews, important considerations during interviews, effective interview questioning techniques, different interviewing styles, and the steps to review and interpret the outcomes after the interview has taken place.

How Do I Prepare a List of Well-crafted Interview Questions?

Interview questions are the cornerstone of any successful conversation, whether you’re a researcher, journalist, podcaster, or human resource manager. They form the foundation upon which insightful and engaging interviews are built. In the world of voice, audio, or video recordings, crafting well-thought-out interview questions is an art that can significantly impact the quality of your content. So, what exactly are interview questions for the purposes of recording voice or audio or video? These are thought-provoking queries designed to elicit informative, intriguing, and authentic responses from your subject, enriching your content and capturing the essence of the conversation.

In this guide, we will explore the art of preparing a list of well-crafted interview questions, offering guidance, examples, and key tips to help you excel in your interviewing endeavours. Whether you’re delving into the realms of research, journalism, podcasting, or human resources, these insights will empower you to create interviews that resonate with your audience and leave a lasting impression on your subjects.

Interview Question Guidelines

Understanding Your Purpose

To prepare the best interview questions, you must first understand your goals. Are you seeking to inform, entertain, inspire, or evaluate? Tailoring your questions to your purpose is essential. For example, if you’re a journalist covering a breaking news story, your questions should aim to uncover the facts and provide clarity.

To prepare a set of well-crafted interview questions, it is paramount to have a clear understanding of your objectives. Ask yourself: What is the ultimate goal of this interview? Are you aiming to inform, entertain, inspire, or evaluate? Tailoring your questions to align with your purpose is fundamental. Let’s delve deeper into this:

Informative Interviews: If you are conducting an interview as a researcher or journalist, your questions should be structured to unveil facts, provide clarity, and inform your audience. For instance, when covering a breaking news story, your questions should aim to uncover the who, what, when, where, and why. This approach ensures that your audience receives a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Entertainment: If your primary objective is to entertain your audience, particularly in podcasting or broadcasting, your questions should be designed to captivate and engage. Inject a sense of curiosity and suspense into your questions to keep your listeners or viewers intrigued.

Inspiration: In interviews meant to inspire, such as when profiling successful individuals, your questions should revolve around personal journeys, challenges, and accomplishments. Ask about the pivotal moments that shaped their path and the lessons they’ve learned. By delving into their experiences, you can offer valuable insights to your audience.

Evaluation and Assessment: Human resource managers often use interviews to evaluate candidates. In such cases, your questions should be structured to assess skills, qualifications, and cultural fit within the organisation. Interview questions should be designed to uncover competencies, problem-solving abilities, and interpersonal skills.

Researching Your Subject

Thorough research on your interviewee is crucial. This not only demonstrates respect for your subject but also allows you to formulate questions that are relevant and insightful. If you’re interviewing a renowned chef, for instance, understanding their culinary background and philosophy will lead to more engaging questions.

Conducting thorough research on your interviewee is a non-negotiable step in the process. Not only does this demonstrate respect for your subject, but it also equips you with the knowledge needed to formulate questions that are not only relevant but deeply insightful. Let’s explore this further:

Understanding Background and Expertise: If you are interviewing a renowned chef, take the time to dive into their culinary background, their signature dishes, and their culinary philosophy. This knowledge will enable you to ask questions that resonate with their expertise and passion, fostering a more engaging and meaningful conversation.

Recent Work and Achievements: Familiarise yourself with your subject’s most recent work, publications, or projects. This is particularly crucial when interviewing professionals in fields like academia or research. By staying up-to-date, you can craft questions that revolve around their latest contributions, ensuring that your interview remains current and relevant.

Unique Personal Insights: Digging into the subject’s personal background can yield fascinating insights. Is there a unique or extraordinary aspect of their life or career that the audience would find intriguing? Tailoring an interview question around such aspects can unveil stories that set your interview apart.

Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions encourage detailed responses and invite your subject to share their experiences and insights. Instead of asking, “Did you enjoy your last project?” try “Tell me about your experience with your last project and what you found most rewarding.”

The art of crafting open-ended questions cannot be overstated. These types of questions are designed to elicit detailed and expansive responses, encouraging your subject to share their experiences and insights freely. Here’s how to make the most of them:

Digging Deeper: Open-ended questions go beyond the surface. They prompt your subject to reflect on their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Instead of asking, “Did you enjoy your last project?” you can ask, “Tell me about your experience with your last project and what you found most rewarding.” This approach allows the interviewee to provide a richer narrative.

Storytelling: Open-ended questions often lead to storytelling. By framing your inquiries in a narrative style, you encourage your subject to recount their experiences, adding depth and personal anecdotes to the interview. This storytelling not only engages the audience but also humanises your subject.

Complex Understanding: Open-ended questions provide space for a more complex understanding of the subject matter. They enable your interviewee to explore nuances, controversies, or multiple perspectives, creating a well-rounded and insightful discussion.

Probing and Follow-Up Questions

Prepare probing questions that dive deeper into the subject’s responses. These questions should build on the initial answer, encouraging the interviewee to expand on their thoughts. For instance, if you’re interviewing an author about their latest book, follow up with, “Can you elaborate on the main theme you mentioned earlier?”

Probing questions are the tools that help you delve deeper into your subject’s responses. These questions build on the initial answer and encourage the interviewee to expand on their thoughts. Let’s explore their significance further:

Unveiling Nuances: Probing questions uncover the nuances of a subject’s response. For instance, if you’re interviewing an author about their latest book and they mention a central theme, you can follow up with, “Can you elaborate on the main theme you mentioned earlier?” This allows the author to delve deeper into the intricacies of their work.

Clarification: Probing questions are also invaluable for seeking clarification. If the interviewee’s response is ambiguous or unclear, a well-structured follow-up interview question can help them clarify their point, ensuring that the audience comprehends the message.

Enhancing Engagement: By using probing and follow-up questions, you keep the conversation dynamic and engaging. These questions create a back-and-forth dialogue that captivates your audience and fosters a more interactive and lively discussion.

Personal Anecdotes

Incorporating personal anecdotes or stories into your questions can create a more relaxed and authentic atmosphere. For example, “I read that you faced a unique challenge in your career. Can you share that experience and how it shaped your journey?”

Incorporating personal anecdotes or stories into your questions can infuse authenticity and relatability into the interview. It adds a human touch to your conversation, making your subject more approachable and the interview more engaging. Consider these insights:

Connecting with the Audience: Personal anecdotes connect the audience with the interviewee on a deeper level. When you ask, “I read that you faced a unique challenge in your career. Can you share that experience and how it shaped your journey?” you not only encourage the subject to share a personal story but also give the audience a glimpse into their character.

Creating a Relaxed Atmosphere: Sharing personal experiences can break the ice and create a relaxed atmosphere. It humanises the interview and makes it less formal, fostering a genuine and comfortable exchange between you and your subject.

Inspiring and Motivating: Personal anecdotes often carry motivational or inspirational messages. When the interviewee shares how they overcame challenges or achieved success, it can inspire your audience, adding depth and value to the interview.

interview question purpose

Avoiding Leading Questions

Leading questions can inadvertently steer your subject’s responses. Strive to keep your questions neutral and unbiased. For example, instead of saying, “You must have enjoyed your time there, right?” ask “What were your most memorable moments during your time there?”

Leading questions can inadvertently steer your subject’s responses in a particular direction, potentially biasing the interview. It’s essential to maintain neutrality and objectivity in your inquiries. Here’s why:

Objective Information: Leading questions can hinder the collection of objective information. Instead of gathering raw and unbiased data, your questions may unintentionally guide the interviewee towards a particular viewpoint.

Preserving Integrity: To maintain the integrity of your interview and the trust of your audience, it’s crucial to present questions that allow your subject to express themselves freely and authentically.

Balanced Perspective: By avoiding leading questions, you enable your interviewee to provide a balanced perspective, ensuring that your content reflects a wide range of viewpoints and ideas.

Balancing Soft and Tough Questions

Strike a balance between soft, friendly questions and tougher, thought-provoking ones. Your interview should have a natural flow, transitioning smoothly between different question types. A mix of questions like “What inspired you to pursue this career?” and “How did you overcome significant challenges in your journey?” can create a well-rounded interview.

Achieving the right balance between soft, friendly questions and tougher, thought-provoking ones is an art that ensures a well-rounded interview. Here’s why this equilibrium is so crucial:

Engagement: Soft, friendly questions help build rapport and make the interviewee feel at ease. They set a friendly and approachable tone that is crucial for engagement, especially in the early stages of the interview.

Depth: Tough, thought-provoking questions challenge your subject to reflect deeply. They unearth profound insights, reveal the complexities of the topic, and allow your audience to gain a more profound understanding of the subject matter.

Transition and Flow: A mix of soft and tough questions ensures a smooth and natural transition in your interview. This balanced approach keeps the conversation dynamic and prevents it from becoming one-sided or monotonous.

Respect and Empathy

Show respect and empathy towards your interviewee. Ensure that your questions are considerate and sensitive, especially when dealing with personal or sensitive topics. An interview question like “Can you share your thoughts on this difficult experience, if you’re comfortable?” conveys empathy and respect.

Showing respect and empathy towards your interviewee is not only a professional courtesy but also a method to extract authentic responses. Let’s explore why these elements are so vital:

Trust Building: When your questions are considerate and sensitive, your interviewee is more likely to trust you with their personal stories and experiences. This trust fosters a deeper and more open conversation.

Comfort and Authenticity: Respect and empathy create a safe space for your subject to be themselves. By acknowledging their boundaries and emotions, you allow them to respond authentically, resulting in a more genuine and heartfelt exchange.

Navigating Sensitive Topics: In interviews that touch on personal or sensitive topics, it’s essential to approach with empathy and respect. An interview question like “Can you share your thoughts on this difficult experience, if you’re comfortable?” conveys your concern for the interviewee’s well-being, giving them the choice to share or decline.

Organising Your Questions

Structure your questions logically, starting with general inquiries and progressively moving towards more specific ones. This allows your subject to ease into the conversation. For example, begin with introductory questions about their background before delving into the main topic.

The structure of your questions plays a crucial role in the flow of the interview. Organising your questions logically ensures a smooth and engaging conversation. Here’s why it matters:

Introduction and Warm-Up: Start with general, introductory questions to ease your subject into the conversation. These questions create a comfortable starting point and set the tone for the rest of the interview.

Progression: Gradually move from general inquiries to more specific ones. This progression allows the subject to build on their answers, resulting in a coherent and logical discussion.

Main Topic Focus: Structuring your questions logically ensures that the interview remains focused on the main topic. This prevents the conversation from veering off track or becoming disjointed.

Testing Your Questions

Before the interview, test your questions with a colleague or friend. Their feedback can help you refine your list and identify any potential issues. You can also use the ‘mirror test’ by asking the questions to yourself in front of a mirror to gauge how they sound and feel.

Before the interview, it’s crucial to test your questions to ensure they are effective and well-received. Seeking feedback from colleagues or friends can help you fine-tune your list. Additionally, the ‘mirror test’ can be a valuable tool for self-assessment. Here’s why it’s essential:

Refinement: Testing your questions allows you to identify potential issues and refine them. Constructive feedback from others can reveal areas that may need improvement, ensuring that your interview runs smoothly.

Confidence: By rehearsing and testing your questions, you can approach the interview with greater confidence. This confidence will be palpable to the interviewee, creating a positive atmosphere.

Mirror Test: The ‘mirror test’ allows you to assess how your questions sound and feel when spoken. This self-evaluation can help you identify awkward phrasing, stumbling points, or any aspects that may need adjustment.

Incorporating these detailed insights into your interview question preparation will not only enhance the quality of your interviews but also leave a lasting impact on your audience and subjects. It’s the combination of thoughtful purpose, research, question structure, and interpersonal skills that transforms interviews from mere conversations into powerful and enlightening exchanges.

Key Interview Question Tips

  • Define Your Purpose: Clearly define the goal of your interview to craft questions that align with your objectives. For example, if your aim is to engage your podcast audience, focus on questions that captivate and entertain.
  • Thorough Research: Spend ample time researching your subject, so your questions are well-informed and tailored to the individual.
interview question

    In the world of interviews for voice, audio, or video recordings, crafting well-crafted questions is an essential skill that can elevate the quality and impact of your content. Whether you are a researcher, journalist, podcaster, or human resource manager, the art of preparing interview questions is a powerful tool.

    As we conclude, remember that interview questions are not just about obtaining information; they are about creating a connection, sparking engaging conversations, and capturing the essence of your subject. Whether you are delving into the depths of research, reporting the latest news, entertaining a podcast audience, or making hiring decisions, the questions you ask can shape the narrative and leave a lasting impression.

    The key advice here is to approach your subjects with respect and empathy, tailor your questions to your purpose, and continuously refine your skills. The more you practice and refine your interview question techniques, the better you will become at eliciting authentic and compelling responses from your subjects. So, next time you prepare for an interview, remember that the quality of your questions is the key to unlocking a remarkable conversation.

    Interview Question Resources

    Way With Words – A professional transcription service offering high-accuracy transcriptions to assist with your interview-related requirements. – Explore valuable resources on journalism, including tips on conducting interviews and crafting questions.

    Harvard Business Review – Discover insightful articles and advice on conducting interviews, especially for human resource managers and recruiters.

    Some Closing Thoughts

    Take a moment to reflect on the following questions:

    1. What is your primary objective for conducting interviews, and how can you tailor your questions to achieve that goal?
    2. How can you balance the art of probing with the importance of respecting your subject’s boundaries?
    3. Can you recall a memorable interview where the questions made all the difference in the quality of the conversation?

    Remember, every recording setup is unique, and the path to optimal sound quality is a continuous learning process. Your experiences and creativity will play a significant role in achieving the best results. Happy recording!