If You Ask These Networking Questions, Your Job Search is More Successful Than You Think

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Meg Applegate88
I connect women to career advancement
June 20, 2024 at 6:16AM UTC

Networking is conversating.

We chat every day without thinking about it. But when you mention this method to job seekers, most panic, their stomachs knot and the sudden urge to run and hide overtakes them.

Don’t sprint to your hiding spot just yet. Networking is just engaging in a meaningful conversation and exchanging information. That’s it!

Instead of participating in an intentional dialogue, however, most job seekers fall into the common job board trap. It’s the hamster wheel of job search. It provides a flurry of activity (on the job seeker end) but doesn’t offer much traction.

Research shows that only 3% of people land work through job boards, whereas 70-80% secure roles via referrals and networking. Play to the numbers in your search.

Easier said than done, right? Networking nerves are real. Sharing about your job search can feel vulnerable and scary. Once you choose to do it, preparation is a great way to gain confidence in your conversations. 

Familiar faces are a great starting point to get your networking sea legs under you. From your kids’ soccer coach to college friends and past colleagues, your people can likely introduce you to someone who can be an asset in your job search.

According to a 2017 study, workplace ties, in particular, are 60% likely to hook you up to your next job.

Networking Questions to Ask Friends, Acquaintances and Past Colleagues

These are people you know and who know you well. A great launching pad for a conversation with people you know is a target company list. It’ll be the centerpiece of your conversation.

A target company list is a list of 30-40 employers (maybe more, maybe less) that you have an interest in working for. Ask questions about your target company list, like:

  • What do you know (if anything) about these companies?
  • What organizations do you see me thriving in?
  • What employers do you think are missing based on what you know about my career goals?
  • What other organizations come to mind after taking a look at my list?
  • Do you know of any current (or former) employees that you can introduce me to?
  • Who else do you recommend I discuss my target list with? Can you make the introduction?

Networking Questions to Ask Insiders

These networking meetings will lead you to people who work (or have worked) in those target organizations. Coined “insiders,” these employees work in a target company, the department or even your role of interest. 

Your primary aim in these conversations is to learn more about the organization to see if you want to work there. And better yet, to best market yourself for the next opening (or a job that doesn’t even yet exist!).

Questions to consider are:

  • How did your career path take you to this job with this company?
  • What do you love most about your work?
  • What are the biggest rewards and challenges in your role?
  • How do you recommend I prepare to assume a role like yours?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What skills do you use most day-to-day?
  • What are the busiest seasons for your role?
  • What kinds of roles do you interface (or collaborate) with?
  • Is your department growing or shrinking?
  • What are the biggest issues facing the department?
  • What are the recent wins in the department?
  • How is the department respected within the rest of the organization?
  • Is it considered a cost center or a value add to the company?
  • What is it like to work here?
  • What separates your organization from its competitors? Where do they lag?
  • What new products (or services) are they looking to offer in the future?

Your goal with insider conversations is to gain an internal champion at the company who will get you to a decision-maker. 

Once you’ve nabbed time with a decision-maker, be sure not only to demonstrate that you are a solid candidate but also that you have extensive interest in the organization. When there is an opening, you’ll be top of mind.

Networking Questions to Ask Decision-Makers

These people make hiring decisions within your target organizations. Consider:

  • What future direction do you see the company taking?
  • How has your organization grown or changed during COVID-19?
  • What are the gaps in your organization/department?
  • What factors are most impacting your business today?
  • What are the most pressing challenges you are facing?

Don’t forget to ask the most magical networking question at the end of most conversations: who else should I talk to? 

This one question will organically generate more people to chat with who understand your career goals and company interests. It will lead you faster to an internal champion or decision-maker to land a job you love.

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Meg Applegate is an award-winning resume writer who connects high-achieving women to career advancement under her boutique resume writing and coaching firm, Hinge Resume Collaborative.

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