Interviewing a guest for your next podcast episode? Here are 4 interview best practices to remember.

Two women talking with podcast microphones

Let’s be honest. Most people would rather go to the DMV on a Saturday morning than sit in front of a camera and answer questions. Perform a quick Google search and you’ll find countless articles about interview best practices, dodging tricky questions and how to remain cool, calm and collected in the face of crippling social anxiety. 

We are told what to say and what to not, under any circumstances, say. And despite the number of resources available to interviewees, there seems to be less out there about how to shine as an interviewer. The role may seem straightforward but like any skill, it’s one worth crafting.

Prepare

Even the world’s best interviewer needs to do their homework. As tempting as it might be to fly by the seat of your pants and those God-given PR talents, it’s important to take the time to prepare for any and every interview. Whether you’re stalking your guest’s LinkedIn to find out their past work history, reading their company’s recent articles or just drafting up a few preliminary questions, your work on the front-end matters.

Are they new to the city? Do they have a background in activism? Knowing the details, no matter how minute they appear, will help bring depth to your interview. Lastly, put thought into your questions and consider asking them to yourself beforehand. Does the question prompt a complex, detailed answer or does it fall short? Remember, your answers will only be as good as your questions.

Connect 

Establish that you are, in fact, a real person. You may laugh, but it’s true. Don’t be too uptight or withdrawn. The key to garnering the best information from an interviewee is to make them feel comfortable enough to open up to you from the very start. 

  • Ask them how their weekend was
  • Compliment that set of eccentric earrings
  • Ask them to tell you a bit about themselves
  • How did they find themselves in their current role? Was it a lifetime goal or was it a serendipitous twist of fate?
  • And don’t forget to smile. That goes a LONG way.

No matter what you ask, find a way to connect.

Go with the flow

Interviews can be unpredictable and one response can change the trajectory of the conversation. Don’t sweat it. The moment you let your perfectly curated questions run the show you’ve already lost that authenticity we’ve been talking so much about. Try to look at your questions as signposts rather than strict rules to stick to. Trust your intuition and follow where the energy goes. If your interviewee lights up while answering a specific question – dig deeper. Someone who does this artfully is British broadcaster and radio host Julie Adenuga.

Notice how Julie allows her guest to guide the conversation, trusting that the information she wants will come. Julie is a master at steering her guests toward her questions in a way that feels genuine. We can all take a few pointers from her sincere interviewing style.

Listen

Let your guest be the star. This is their time to shine, and they deserve to feel heard. As a PR professional the urge to interrupt is real, but don’t let it impact the way you conduct your interview. Once someone realizes that they won’t be interrupted, they have permission to open up. Plus, nothing is worse than an overeager interviewer. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video of Jimmy Fallon interrupting guests for one minute straight.

Think about all the powerful stories and golden nuggets of information Jimmy could have learned if he would just let his guests talk. No matter how engaging and lovable Jimmy is, his interviews are made less enjoyable because of his interruptions. The same goes for you.

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Hannah Robinson

One of the newest members of the Hodges team, Hannah has happily made the transition from higher education to agency life. In addition to her public relations skills, she is already a seasoned voice artist and admits to a special talent for memorizing song lyrics.

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