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Networking Conversations: What do I say?

Roosevelt & Churchill in conversation
Roosevelt & Churchill in conversation
Zorba the Geek/Geograph (licensed for reuse)

The robust job search is driven not by applying for jobs, but by generating conversations with strategic connections within targeted companies. Simply put, you're talking to folks in an intentional and purposeful way. Recognizing the need to have conversations is the easy part. Knowing what to say during these conversations is - for an inordinate number of job-seekers - bewildering and more than a little intimidating.

The solution to minimizing the anxiety in this process is by first identifying what you want to accomplish from the networking effort. The questions you ask will determine the success of your meetings.

First, consider your informational needs based on advance target company research. Then after you’ve arranged to meet with your contact, set about preparing questions that will generate the information you need to guide you closer to your goal of getting hired. Don’t over-think the task at hand. You’re simply setting in motion a plan to gather information.

Following is a sampling of networking questions addressing a variety of informational objectives. Review and customize them to meet your particular job search needs:

Rapport-Building & Intelligence Gathering Questions

• From what you know about me, do you think my objective is a logical next step in my career? Why/Why not?
• How did you get into this kind of work? This company?
• What do you like the most about what you do? About this company?
• If you were in a job search, what would you do?
• What organizations do you belong to? Recommend?

Positioning Questions

• How are positions typically filled in this company?
• What personal qualities and attributes do you look for when you hire someone in my role?
• What characteristics do you most like to find in people who hold this position? Who work for this company?
• When you think about individuals who are most successful in my role, what are the key competencies and qualities that contribute to their success?

Questions If Contact Indicates a Potential Need for Your Talents

• Based on what I know about your company, and what I understand to be the key competencies in this position, I would be interested in being considered for a future opening. What would you suggest I do next?
• Does your company hire people on a contract or part-time basis?
• Who else within this company can you recommend for me to speak to about present or future opportunities with the company?

Referral-Generating & Closing Questions

• Given how you’ve been so generous with your time, how may I return the favor by helping you in some way?
• Can you recommend other companies that I should add to my target company list?
• Do you have any contacts at these companies? Would you be comfortable facilitating my getting in touch with this person?
• What professional associations, recruiters or networking events can you recommend to me?
• Who else should I be speaking to?
• May I have your business card? Here’s mine.

Again, don’t over-think what you’re going to say as you plan to meet with your contact. Simply remember to be courteous; be professional; be reciprocal – be yourself. And don’t forget to follow-up with your contact the outcome of the information that was shared with you.

Now, go out and conquer the world!