A well-written profile gives you insight about a person’s history, lifestyle and thoughts. It can also give you a sense of his personality and intellect. Whether you only have 300 words or three full pages for your profile, you want to make sure you have questions to ask when profiling someone so you get all the information you need to write the best possible profile.

Do Your Research

Before coming up with questions to ask in a profile interview, be sure to do your research. Look online for any information about the person you’re profiling, including past profiles, her personal and professional websites and her social media. Talk to people who know her or get historical information from a resource center.

The more information you have about the person you’re profiling, the easier it is to come up with questions that are specific to her. It’s also helpful to come into a profile interview with some background information so you ask relevant questions that show you did your research.

Questions to Ask When Profiling Someone

In most cases, the questions to ask in a profile interview are specific to the person being profiled and the type of profile you are writing. For instance, if you are writing a profile focusing on a person’s professional success, you want to spend more time asking questions about that than his personal history. If you are instead writing a biography, you’ll want to ask more in-depth questions about a person’s family history as well as more personal questions.

When you are coming up with questions, it’s a good rule of thumb to only ask open-ended questions so you don’t simply get a “yes” or “no” answer. You should make a list of at least 20 questions to ask for a profile essay that apply to the profile you’re writing. A few good questions to ask when profiling someone include:

  • Tell me about where you grew up and what your family life was like.
  • How did your parents influence you?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • Who have been your strongest influences in life?
  • How did you come up with the idea for your business?
  • What led you to your career?
  • How would friends and acquaintances describe you?
  • What are you most proud of accomplishing?
  • What would you do differently if you had a chance?
  • Share with me something about yourself that you want to improve.
  • Describe a scene of your vision for the future.

The questions you ask vary greatly depending on the type of profile you write, which is why it’s important to prepare at least 20 questions to ask for a profile essay. That way, you can guide the interview to get the specific information you need to write your profile.

How to Effectively Ask Questions

Coming up with good questions to ask in a profile interview is important but so is knowing how to effectively ask the questions. Questions must be designed to elicit useful and engaging answers, with an eye toward the intended audience. At the same time, you want the interview to be relaxed and informal so the person feels comfortable answering your questions and sharing anecdotes.

Effective interviewers allow the questions and answers to carry their own rhythm, which may lead to unanticipated information that can be rich in memory and details. Rather than just collect a list of such people and events, good interviewers dig deeper to reveal the "why" behind the answers to show how personal reactions can lead to lifelong influences. It’s important to push for answers and details only as much as the person being interviewed allows.

Questions about personal character and perceptions are best for the middle or end of the interview after a comfortable rapport has been established. Questions that elicit childhood memories and influences can be among the most revealing. Whether you have 20 questions to ask for a profile essay or dozens more, take the time you need to have a good conversation with the interview subject. Make sure you aren’t rushing and don’t schedule appointments back to back. The more time you take asking questions and getting your answers, the better your profile will be.