Elicit stories with authentic moments of emotion by using these questions and prompts when interviewing.

Alex Blumberg is CEO and co-founder of Gimlet Media, maker of blockbuster podcasts, and an award-winning radio journalist and producer. He says that good questions are what open people up, open new doors, and create opportunities. He uses these questions to invite authenticity and connection. In response, people often describe significant moments from their lives, tell funny stories, and give concrete and specific details. Most interviewers are weak at getting people to recount things, so use these questions and you will immediately be ahead of the competition.

Instructions

  1. Prompts to elicit stories (pseudo-commands are sometimes more effective than questions):
    “Tell me about a time when…”
    “Tell me about the day [or moment or time] when...”
    “Tell me the story of... [how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]”
    “Tell me about the day you realized…”
    “What were the steps that got you to _____?”
    “Describe the conversation when…”
    You need to cover the setting (who, what, where, when), emotions, and details.
  2. Follow-up questions when something interesting comes up, even in passing:
    “How did that make you feel?”
    “What do you make of that?”
    “Explain that a bit more…”
    “What did you learn from that?”
  3. General-use fishing lures:
    “If the old you could see the new you, what would the new you say?”
    “You seem very confident now. Was that always the case?” 
    “If you had to describe the debate in your head about [X decision or event], how would you describe it?”
    “When you do X [or “When Y happened to you”], what does your internal self-talk sound like? What do you say to yourself?”

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