19 July 2012

Key Questions To Ask When Networking For A New Job

The Number One Thing To Remember When Networking Is...People Have A Favorite Topic Of Discussion – Themselves!

It truly is not about you. It is more about the other person.

Ask questions, find their interesting story, learn from them, ask advice. Strive for a conversation that is 25% you, 75% them.

  • Remember your manners. Smile a lot. Say please and thank you. Hold doors open. Make eye contact. Say “and” more than you say “but.” Be positive. These are the things your mom taught you.
These are great launching off points to consider before thinking of what to ask at an informational meeting.

  • Don’t forget that it’s important to assess what you want to know! There is nothing worse than having a meeting and walking away without accomplishing your goals. So, have some goals!
  • Figure out what you need to know about the organization or the person – things that you cannot find out by a quick Google search. 
  • Consider asking about the person’s (or organization’s) values, important skills needed to work there and about how they do business. Ask the nuanced questions you want to know. For example:

What are your biggest challenges? (Or those impacting your field/company/organization?)

What is the best (and worst) part of your job?

What would you do differently (if anything) if you were starting over in your field?

At the same time, in case you have a contact who likes to ask a lot of questions, be sure that you can also discuss your unique qualities – your unique selling proposition.

What are YOUR skills?
Why are you interested in this field or organization?
What do YOU have to offer?

Be sure to bring along your resume, just in case your networking contact asks for it, or if you have an opportunity to ask for input and advice.

In the long run, what exactly you ask is less important than HOW you ask it and how well prepared you appear. It is really true that you have one chance to make a first impression…Be interested and interesting and you won’t have to worry!


J.B. King said...

Elevator speeches are also worth having prepared so that one can tell their story in a few minutes well enough to communicate the major points. This can be challenging at first but with practice it does get easier. The idea here is to know who one is and be able to relay the highlights of their life with relative ease and enthusiasm. Appearing upbeat can be an important point here as there is something to be said for the attitude one conveys in asking questions and communicating. Is there confidence? Is there enthusiasm? Is there interest? All are important points here.

Laurie DesAutels said...

Fabulous points! I have another post coming shortly on this topic. You are definitely right about being upbeat and sincere when asking questions. True story...A recent candidate of mine called me after a phone interview saying he had no clue how it went. I was puzzled until he said that hiring manager talked about himself the entire time.
I called the hiring manager and asked how was the call? He said "I loved talking with him and let's set up an interview". Very strange., I know but the candidate was eventually hired.

Stephen Monaco said...

This piece is particularly helpful for so many people!

While people seem to know they should be networking, they readily admit they don't really know how to network - at all.

Shy people and introverts find networking events intimidating because they genuinely feel afraid by the very idea of walking up to a stranger to introduce themselves. They don't know how to "break the ice" with a person or mingle. They frequently end up standing alone, or with the person they drug along with them, and don't interact with anyone. Then they leave feeling defeated because they didn't accomplish anything.

Negative self talk ensues...

At the other end of the spectrum there are those I believe consider themselves to be excellent because they "work the room" and make contact with every single person at the event. I've been to networking events where there was at least one person, (typically a young person, straight out of college, who just started working at a bank or as an insurance agent), who literally carries their box of 250 freshly printed cards with them.

They approach each person or small group of people at the venue, introduce themselves as they pull business cards from the box, and deliver a canned message about what they do and how they can help them with all their (banking / insurance / web design / SEO / catering / lawn service) needs. They often ask for business right on the spot.

"No, well do you know anyone that might need X services I provide? Perhaps someone at your place of business, at your church, or any clubs you belong to?"

Then the person moves to the next group of 5-6 people four feet away and repeats the process. And so it goes until all 250 business cards have been distributed. Success!


This type of networking is off putting, abrasive and insincere. People who were interrupted by a pushy networker talk negatively about the person the minute they walk away to approach their next group of prey. "Can you believe that guy? What a jerk! I don't have the stomach for people who feign sincerity like that; he didn't even ask our names but tried to sell us something. How tacky..."

It's never surprising when the business cards these people hand out are immediately thrown away, placed in an empty wine glass, or stuffed into a half-eaten hors d'oeuvre on a plate and pushed out of the way.

The two scenarios above are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and most people probably fall somewhere in between. Still, most everyone can benefit by improving their networking skills.

These tips from Laurie regarding asking questions while networking while seeking employment opportunities are useful and provide information people can implement right away.

I'm sure countless people will benefit from your advice, Laurie; thanks for sharing your knowledge so generously!

Anonymous said...


Stephan White said...

This is a interesting post, thanks for sharing.

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