“How did I become such a success? I’m so glad you asked…”
Although we’re sure you’ve had to prepare for press interviews in the past as a CEO or spokesperson for your company (or at the very least practiced answering softball questions in front of your bathroom mirror), this is not about that type of interview. Instead, today we’re reviewing the best questions to ask when you’re actually conducting an interview.
That’s right; besides the classic “interviewing the boss on why she started the company” style of video interview, there are actually a lot of different marketing video types that have an interview component to them. A lot of times, it’s actually you or your team that will be interviewing a subject on camera, not the other way around.
Whether you’re filming a customer testimonial, employee spotlight, or day in the life video with your team, you’ll want to be prepared for how to conduct yourself and get the best response out of your subject so you don’t have to go back for re-shoots.
But first, a few quick tips to keep in mind.
Before we jump into the actual questions, let’s get a few preliminary preparation tips out of the way.
First, whether you’re using these questions or your own, more personalized questions for your interview subject, make sure you write your questions out in advance. Don’t rely on yourself in the moment to remember everything – just as you wouldn’t let your subject ramble on without actually asking them anything, don’t let yourself off the hook by not preparing.
That being said, don’t be afraid to let the conversation lead you, as well. Keep your questions on hand as a roadmap, but if your subject brings up something that’s too fascinating not to delve further into, go ahead. Just be respectful of their time and don’t keep them around for way longer than you thought just because there’s so much good material. If you have to, schedule a second day.
Also, make sure you phrase each of your questions so they’re not able to be answered with a simple yes or no. You’ll see in the sample questions how we avoid yes or no answers with subtle tactics to open the subject up and get them responding to ideas as opposed to agreeing or disagreeing with statements.
Lastly, always ask the interviewer to repeat the question back to you as part of your answer, so you can use the answer with its full context in your video.
OK, now let’s dive into the top 10 best questions to ask during an on-camera interview!
Quick note: The exact questions will change from industry to industry and person to person, so use these examples as guidelines for framing your own questions for your interview needs, not as an exact script.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
A basic line of softball questioning is the best way to start any interview. Ask a series of easy-to-answer questions so your subject can warm up and feel comfortable. You can extend the “Who are you and what do you do?” line of questioning to include simple things like, “Do you have any siblings?” or “Where did you grow up?” to continue to open them up, but depending on the reason for the interview, it might not be necessary.
2. What are you working on right now? What’s it like to work on that?
This is a good way to segue from the broader categories and get into the specifics of the present. This can be tweaked slightly depending on the actual subject of your interview. For example, if you’re here to talk to a former customer about a recent success story, you could ask “What was the last big problem you had to overcome for your business?” For an industry-adjacent partner being interviewed for an industry video on a topic that affects your industry, you could ask, “When was the last time you had to deal with this issue?”
3. How common is that? Can you explain how that works?
These questions are clarifying questions meant to dig deeper into a specific subject. These can be on topics you prompt, or on areas that come up naturally in an interview subject’s answer that you want more information about. By asking these questions, you can get closer to the core of an issue or topic so that it’s better understood by the audience.
4. What is the most challenging part of what you do or solving this issue?
This is a good way to dig into more of the personal and emotional side of an interview subject and their feelings on what they do or what issue they’re struggling with, whether it’s an industry-wide problem or a personal business-related issue. This could even be a good question to ask your employees to understand more about what they do and the difficulties of their individual positions.
5. That’s interesting, what makes you say that?
Whenever a topic comes up that might seem controversial or could lead to a deeper, more thoughtful conversation, it’s good to follow up and try to better understand your subject’s position. If a subject takes a particular stance on an issue that you either don’t agree with or could use further explaining, asking them where that idea comes from can either enrich the point or show a potential blindspot in your subject’s point of view. You can always edit it out later. Just remember not to argue against their opinion – your goal is to learn, not debate.
6. Why is this issue, position, or solution important to you?
This is where you can dive into the why behind an interview subject’s concerns or caring about a topic. Ultimately, the best interviews are with subjects who are passionate about what they’re talking about. Whether the topic makes them excited or furious, passion is a powerful motivator, and emotional testimony, whether for a customer testimonial, industry interview, or day in the life video blog, makes the most compelling content.
7. Where do you hope to see this business or situation in a year from now?
Whether you’re interviewing a satisfied customer or a concerned citizen, this is a great question to suss out an interview subject’s hopes and fears for the future. If you are looking to a customer to answer where they hope to see their life in a year from now after using your product or service, this is a great way to discover (and flaunt) their level of satisfaction in your product, as well as future intentions to continue working with you. If you’re using this to ask a subject about a particular issue, this is a great way to show how said issue affects those involved and highlight the importance of solving it.
8. What would you say to people who are worried about this issue?
This can be an equally interesting interview question as the one before it, because you’re essentially asking your subject for their own version of a call to action. In a way, this is one of the best questions you can ask a subject. In the case of a customer testimonial, they can share their own fears and doubts before using your product or service, and the reasoning behind how and why they overcame them to give you a chance. In the case of an employee spotlight, try rephrasing the question to something more like, “What would you say to potential hires or customers looking to do business with us?” for a more uplifting response.
9. What makes this issue or company so important right now?
If the previous question wasn’t enough of a call to action for you, this question certainly is, and is helpful not only for getting a great quote for a video, but helpful for understanding the underlying motivations behind your subject’s entire interest in this topic. Whether they be customers, partners, employees, or everyday citizens, the way they answer this question can provide you with a greater context on the topic at hand.
10. Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Letting the subject have the last word is a great way to get some great material you would have never thought to ask about. It can make them feel good, because you are giving them the opportunity to let their voice be heard, which can lead to a new perspective or new information about a topic that might surprise you. You can even tell them the interview is over, and then just continue chatting while leaving the cameras on, which can remove the stress of the interview and open your subject up to share a lot more. Just always be ethical and let them know the cameras are still rolling so they have the opportunity to cut something out and aren’t blindsided to find it in the video later.
Have more questions? Reach out!
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