Open-Enders — Questions that Make Your Interview Count

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the best interviews often start off a bit awkwardly as you’re getting to know your subject and discerning his vibe.

Depending on the subject, you can find a hundred different trails to success. One good way to turn an interview from awkward to undoable, though, is to ask “Yes” and “No” questions.

“Was that a good experience?”


“Did you know that was going to happen?”


“Would you do it that way again?”


If running quotes like that doesn’t get you fired, it definitely won’t get you re-tweeted.

Rather than paint yourself into a corner, ask open-ended questions that get your subject talking about themselves and their memories and the topic at hand. Here’s are 13 “Open-Enders” that will get you the background and the quotes that will make your interview count — and your article worth reading.

  1. That’s interesting — can you tell me more about that?
  2. Then what happened?
  3. What was it like to ___________ ?
  4. Who else was there? What did they do?
  5. Why did you decide to do that?
  6. What did the place look like?
  7. Who were the main players in this situation? What did they do?
  8. What event or conversation made the difference here?
  9. What were the risks for you? For others?
  10. What problems or screw-ups did you have to overcome?
  11. What do most people not know about this that they should?
  12. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you want to mention?
  13. Who else should I talk to about this? (Thanks to the late David Halberstam for this one)
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