In my last post, I talked about networking conversations. An important factor is in the types of questions you ask. These questions follow a series. If the order doesn’t fit your needs as you review them, think about what you would ask if you only had time for one question; then only two; three; and so on. This should give you an easily ordered group.
Each question you ask should be explicit, so steer clear of time zappers like, “How’s it going?” When you’re happy with your list of questions, have a copy on your computer and/or smartphone, another by your home phone, and a third that will fit in your wallet or purse.
It’s fine to ask if there are openings at the company or in a particular business unit, and with whom you should talk to about them.
Not good to ask:
- Can you or your company bring me on board?
Good to ask:
- What needs does your company currently have?
- Who in the company is most likely to want someone with my background?
- Who else in the company might want someone with my background?
- Does your company have other business units, divisions, subsidiaries? Where are they?
- Is the company planning any expansion or new initiatives that might generate an opening?
- If applicable, when do you expect a change in company talent needs?
- Would you be willing to share email addresses or phone numbers of recruiters you hear from?
You may want to add some occupation-specific questions. For example, people in warehousing and distribution might ask questions about inventory variance and size, as well as channels. Someone in pharmaceutical sales might ask about drug classes, the competition, market research, and district hierarchy. A job seeker in education administration might prod about school or district programs, processes, curriculum and technology.
In this case, after receiving an answer, use a similar focused follow-up question. “Thanks, Mark. Who else is involved with that whole-school provision for in-service and training?” Or, “Great, Joe! Who else do you know that uses ABC as a third-party carrier to reduce freight spends?”
This will lead you to other organizations apt to have related requirements. Make sure that any question added to your list identifies names, titles, companies and contact information for those who can potentially help you.
Leads at different companies.
If you’re sure that no job openings exist within a particular company or business unit, move on to gathering leads in other companies.
- Who do you know at _____?
This will generate a better answer than “Do you know of anyone at other software firms in town?” If your contact can’t think of anyone, ask about other companies:
- What companies have you heard about that are hiring now?
- If you were in career transition, which companies would you be interested in?
Whenever you are offered a lead – no matter how obvious – say, “Hey, that’s great! I never thought of ____ as hiring. Who else is hiring?” When your contacts see that their help is appreciated, they will often think of more.
The extent of your questioning depends on the inclination of your contacts to linger in the conversation; I’ve known these chats to run for over an hour.
What are your thoughts on asking great networking questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.