11 min read • Retention

Everything Podcast Listeners Love, Hate, and Wish More Hosts Understood About Interviewing

If you want to make better interviews, here's what to avoid, embrace, and seek out in your episodes.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

On your quest to become a better podcast interviewer, it helps to understand what listeners actually want from the interview shows they listen to.

Same goes for the red flags that turn them off and cause them to stop listening immediately, never to return.

To help get clarity on what makes for an enjoyable interview, I surveyed my readers and asked them to share their answers to the following five questions.

What’s a common trait you see in great interviewers?

Great interviewers find ways to balance out their must-ask questions to their guests, and let guests reveal a part of themselves through an effortless conversation.

Angelique Lusan, The Italian Escape​ and ​The AI and Digital Transformation Podcast​

Giving the guest space to talk and not interrupting or jumping in too quickly.

A good example of this was recently Ed Mylett had Allison Holker (Twitch’s widow) as a guest. I thought he did a great job of giving her space and letting her speak and allowing for the silence sometimes.

— Erin Scott, Believe In Dog

Hosts who are super curious people by nature (or who’ve gotten really good at customer research type things!) are the best hosts.

They dig and dig deep into what people say to get to the root of it. (And ask the hard qs that everyone wants to know the answers to!)

— Heidi Weinberg, Fashion Designers Get Paid

Great interviewers have a list of questions in mind they want to ask, but they don’t get stuck there.

The good interviewer is willing to turn on a dime and dig deeper into any one area that brings up an interesting point to show the audience.

There is something the interviewer wants out of the interview, and they will keep asking to dig deeper until they reach the level of depth they were after in any one area rather than taking one response at face value and moving on.

The “when” to dig deeper is a skill I think that develops over time.

— Nick Korte, Nerd Journey

They’ve obviously done their research. They ask interesting questions that I want to know the answer to. They seem sincerely interested in the guest as a person.

— Amanda Bennett, Gotcha Mama

They keep the conversation moving productively and gently nudge the guest, keeping them from wandering down too many rabbit holes.

— Diane Canada, Lady Up America

Research — Chris Williamson, Tim Ferris, Steven Bartlett, David Perell. They all have a tonne of notes they are working through as they go through the interview and it shows.

Unafraid of Discomfort — Every episode I try to ask one question I’m a bit scared of that feels a little more personal (but then I am polite British and super against my nature).

Getting more intimate and digging past the image a guest shows to the world is an essential part of a good interview.

A lot of interviews fall down on the interviewer just asking very easy “Tell me why you’re great” questions. It’s the tell me why you’re broken that creates the intimacy.

— Sam Harris, Growth Mindset Podcast

An overlooked skill in interviewing is managing the ad lib chatter in between answers and moving to the next question.

It’s a similar skill to moderating a panel at an event, but harder because you have to think about the final edit.

As the host if you’re thinking some of their answers may need to be chopped up or moved around. Sometimes it’s actually better to be a bit brutal when asking the next question and just launching into it with no preamble.

The skill is in knowing what those moments are, noticing them in the moment, and steering around them! I’m still learning it.

— Lauren Ingram, Women of Web3

What’s a common bad habit you see that reduces the quality of an interview?

The angst-driven approach of interviewers to follow their long-list of questions or to always circle the conversation back to themselves.

Angelique Lusan, The Italian Escape​ and ​The AI and Digital Transformation Podcast​

Hosts who are unprepared and think they can just “wing it”.

Or hosts have their own agenda (whether deliberate or not) to bring the conversation around to something they feel comfortable talking about rather than going in a new direction with the guest.

Hosts who make it all about themselves.

On the flip side, hosts who just read off the questions they prepared and don’t acknowledge, respond, or follow-up with the guest’s responses to get more information.

— Erin Scott, Believe In Dog

I hate when an interviewer seems to have set questions and doesn’t dig into something interesting the guest said. They seem to just go through their questions instead of having a meaningful, curiosity-led conversation.

— Heidi Weinberg, Fashion Designers Get Paid

Too many filler words get to me. A few here and there are fine, but now that I am doing the editing for my own show, I can’t let too many filler words stand, or it takes away from the discussion’s enjoyment. They have become way louder now than they once were.

— Nick Korte, Nerd Journey

Hijacking the conversation and talking more about themselves. Interrupting (not gracefully). Not asking follow up questions to the guest’s answers. They just move on to the next question.

— Amanda Bennett, Gotcha Mama

Repeating themselves! It drives me nuts. I think recaps and reminders can be helpful, but redundancy or using words to fill space that aren’t necessary is drudgery to listen to! Just get to the point!!!

— Diane Canada, Lady Up America

Not editing – You can tell. Unless you are a next-level pro interviewer you need to edit. *(Also, helps you get better at being an interviewer)*

This is an interviewing skill comment because if you edit you can happily ask the same question from a different angle and delete the 5-minute rant the guest just gave you when they didn’t give you the answer you wanted.

Being able to edit gives you a lot more ability as an interviewer to feel like you are collecting good ideas and stories and source material for the final episode and less relaxed about any 1 minute being perfect.

Chatting too much shit – I don’t need to hear you talk about the brilliance of being able to talk to someone over Zoom on the other side of the world.

— Sam Harris, Growth Mindset Podcast

When people feel like they have to respond to what the interviewee has just said before asking their next question but they don’t have anything interesting to say so it’s like “cool” or “awesome” and then an awkward move to the next question. 👀

— Jocelyn K. Glei, Hurry Slowly

What makes for a great interview from a listener perspective?

This feeling like I’ve been taken on a roller coaster ride I was not forced to or dragged by.

Angelique Lusan, The Italian Escape​ and ​The AI and Digital Transformation Podcast​

A natural ebb & flow – feels like listening in on a conversation rather than an interview. The balance between preparation and staying present in the moment.

Uncovering new ground or a new angle, especially if the guest is someone known to speak about their certain topic.

Also, guests who are able and willing to share and not just stick to their talking points or tell the same 3 anecdotes they’ve shared on 57 different podcasts while promoting their book.

— Erin Scott, Believe In Dog

I want to finish listening feeling like I got some great information from the discussion but at the same time wishing there was more time with the guest.

Ideally it would be like listening to people having a casual conversation at lunch by the end, even if all parties started out a little nervous.

— Nick Korte, Nerd Journey

You can feel the rapport with the guest and host. The host seems excited to be there and talk with the guest. There’s a good flow of back and forth – not a lot of one person.

The host asks questions I want to know the answer to. The guest gives relevant answers – and makes it simple for me to understand 🙂

— Amanda Bennett, Gotcha Mama

Keeping the conversation moving, being mindful of time, while not skipping key points. I suppose we could sum this up with one word: discernment.

— Diane Canada, Lady Up America

Good mix of stories, lessons, and data.

Deliver on all expectations AND learn something I didn’t expect.

No moments where I notice wanting to hear more but it get’s cut-off. Instead consistently feeling “ohhhh, but I wonder about this…” and then the interviewer then delivers for me.

— Sam Harris, Growth Mindset Podcast

What makes for a bad interview from a listener perspective?

A bad interview (for me) would be an interview done with bad audio, and was done in a chit-chat friends’ format with no direction.

Angelique Lusan, The Italian Escape​ and ​The AI and Digital Transformation Podcast​

While the goal is to feel conversational, that doesn’t mean it’s just a conversation. I don’t want to listen to people just “shoot the shit” without feeling like there’s some point or purposeful journey that I’m being taken on.

On the flip side, anything that feels overly scripted based on someone’s talking points squeezed into a set time limit. (e.g. Late night talk show hosts.)

Things that feel rushed, interrupted, aren’t given space to breathe.

— Erin Scott, Believe In Dog

I think I would call it a lack of dialogue.

It likely depends on the topic and the people, but if the interviewee is giving short, brief answers and not elaborating enough to really form a dialogue between themselves in the interviewer, it could mean the interviewer isn’t asking questions that are interesting enough or open enough to promote discussion.

It could also mean the person being interviewed is uneasy or nervous (or perhaps even not prepared to answer what they were asked).

Some guests will have certain things they want to say / messages they want to deliver depending on who it is, so it shouldn’t sound like the guest showed up to just give a canned speech and nothing more.

— Nick Korte, Nerd Journey

Letting it drag on with non-essential words is drudgery for both the listener and the guest. Being unprepared is also grueling to listen to.

And lastly, redundancy of words, just to hear yourself talk, will make listeners walk.

— Diane Canada, Lady Up America

Interviews that feel random, with topics that jump around with no agenda.

Guests that go on for too long and repeat the same stuff… or when they promote their own stuff too much… or when the interviewer promotes their own stuff too much.

Too many adverts or too long adverts (like no ad needs to be over 2 mins yet some people make a 4 min advert…).

Eloquent Mis-Information

When people who are normally very knowledgeable talk about something they don’t know but with the same eloquence and airs of wisdom yet are speaking complete shit.

If you ever hear Jordan Peterson or Huberman talking about something you know a lot about – it’s jarring and hard to listen to them the rest of the time and take them seriously.

Opinion stuffing

I prefer interviewers who stay within their lane of expertise but are very open-minded to whatever your view might be on everything else. Without making a song and dance about how open-minded they are as that is also a political view within itself…

— Sam Harris, Growth Mindset Podcast

Who is one of your favourite interviewers and what do they do particularly well?

Rich Roll came to mind first for me.

Angelique Lusan, The Italian Escape​ and ​The AI and Digital Transformation Podcast​

I usually really enjoy Howard Stern’s interviews.

Like 75% of the time. I appreciate his balance between doing all his preparation work with how he stays in the moment with the guest and follows them down the path they lead with their responses.

My biggest pet peeves with Howard are 1) he interrupts his guests; and 2) sometimes he gets too much in the “armchair therapist” role (e.g. recently with John Cena talking about his father).

— Erin Scott, Believe In Dog

My favourite interviewer, and the one that inspired me the most, is the late ​Sir Robin Day​. Sir Robin was an English political journalist and television and radio broadcaster. Here’s the link to one of his shows.

— Stephen Kamagusa, Conversations with Stephen Kamugasa

One of my favorites isn’t a podcaster (more like a journalist).

I’m currently reading Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska by Warren Zanes (who also did a great biography of Tom Petty).

Zanes shares a lot of his back and forth with Bruce Springsteen. He does an excellent job of continuing the discussion with Springsteen by simply making a statement and stopping to let Springsteen react.

The lesson here is you don’t always have to ask a question to continue the dialogue with the person you’re interviewing. It can be a statement or a label you place on something that produces a reaction from the person on the other side.

Zanes is fantastic at it, specially in what he shares in the book about Springsteen’s Nebraska. That, and he had done his research on Springsteen and had a plan for what to do if there was a question he asked that his interviewee did not want to answer.

— Nick Korte, Nerd Journey

Sean Evans of Hot Ones.

He’s curious, listens, and patient with guests. His team has also prepared him with super interesting questions about the guests that make the celebrity guests genuinely excited to answer.

— Amanda Bennett, Gotcha Mama

​Adam Tarnow​ is my gold standard for an interviewer.

He passes the “lunch test:” Can you sit with him and talk for hours? He follows and doesn’t force the conversation. He researches and asks unique questions, stays in his role: the setup man. And, of course, he’s a good listener.

​Aaron Rose​

One of my faves is Becket Cook. I learn SO much from him, but I love the fact that he seems so approachable and his humanity shines through. He doesn’t pretend to know it all. He lets us see his vulnerability.

— Diane Canada, Lady Up America

Lex Friedman – gets guests to strawman their own arguments. I generally feel like he helps you get an understanding of how the guest thinks and makes decisions.

I also like that he tries to stay quite impartial on the politics of a guest and it feels like he is just open-minded about things. He can remain friendly with famous guests that have fallen out without ever being drawn into taking sides.

Brains podcast – Discussion between two verified greats on a topic plus the interviewer. Interviewer has an agenda yet equally lets the guests compare their own ideas and interests and every episode is epic.

On the flipside, I dislike Carol Swisher and am still confused she has an audience. She has such a clear agenda in an interview and is so opinionated.

Yeah, it’s nice she grills Mark Zuckerberg or whatever… but she doesn’t even talk to him like he’s a human…

— Sam Harris, Growth Mindset Podcast

Debbie Millman from the Design Matters pod is a great interviewer (deep deep research).

Sam Fragoso from the Talk Easy pod is also very good. Again deep research and he seems to cultivate an intimate vibe.

— Jocelyn K. Glei, Hurry Slowly

For the last 3 years, I have religiously listened to Triggernometry, Thomas Sowell, Gad Saad, David Rubin, and Jordan Peterson

— Emily Bron, Age of Reinvention

If you’re looking for more resources on improving your interview episodes, check out our in-depth guide on becoming a better podcast interviewer.

Start Growing Your Show— Here’s How

Enter your email address below and I’ll send you a 6-lesson course walking you through how to set your show up for long-term growth that doesn’t require you to spend all your time marketing.

No spam. Ever. That’s not the kind of marketing we practice, teach, or tolerate. Unsubscribe at any time with a single click.