10 Usefully Quirky Interview Questions

These ten business history interview questions – slightly offbeat, always evocative – have been used by CorporateHistory.net with great results in developing executive memoirs, business anniversary projects, and speeches. We ask these Qs only after covering the 16 basic interview questions we blogged about last month.

Can you take me with you on/to . . .
Your first paying job?
A move from one position or location to another?
Your fantasy job?
The one spot in the world where you’d like to build a house?

Can you introduce me to . . .
Your first boss?
An early co-worker you still know?
A memorable character who affected you?

Can you tell me. . .
The one single word you’d use to describe yourself?
The book, movie, TV show, or song that got into your head and wouldn’t leave?
The quotation or motto that’s always in the back of your mind?

A note on our interview process: We listen and follow interviewees’ leads. That’s how Studs Terkel, the author of Working, got such superb oral histories. (I was once accused by a corporate speechwriter of being a “discursive” interviewer, and letting interviewees ramble into new territory, as if that was a bad thing.) At the same time, we corporate history interviewers don’t have the luxury of hundreds of pages, as Terkel did. And it always pays to be prepared. In our experience, some interviewees are “ask me the question” people, not folks who enjoy extemporizing.