Career Tip 25: Strengthen Your Web – Gathering Networking Information

Gathering Networking Information.

A common question is, “How do I keep a networking conversation going? Inevitably, things go silent, and I do not know what to say.” The Job Dog understands that networking can be stressful. A common reaction to such stress is to talk too much. When networking, your job is not so much to talk. Your job is to ask questions and then to listen.

Networking is this simple:

  • You have friends, co-workers, and relatives.
  • Most want to help.
  • It is not their job to come to you with information.
  • It is your job to ask them questions that get them talking.
  • You should develop good questions before you speak with your contacts.

Let’s make networking a whole lot easier. Here’s how.

Do Not Ask

  • How long do you think it will take to find another job?
  • Do you know of any jobs at your company?
  • Are you aware of jobs at other companies?
  • Can you think of a person I should contact?

Although good questions, these are closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions lead to abbreviated thought, a yes/no answer, or some quick fact. Problem is, you do not want brief responses. You want thoughtful attention to your questions.

How to Change Your Questions for Much Better Results

Revise your questions to an open-ended version of the same thought. Open-ended questions get a person thinking. Here are improved versions of each of these key questions.

  • Did you experience challenges when you changed jobs in the past?
    • Better: What challenges do you think I will experience in my search?
    • Better: What advice can you give me to improve my competitiveness?
    • Better: What else do you think I could do to improve my job search?
  • Does your company internally post jobs before they become public?
    • Better: What job postings do you anticipate in upcoming months?
    • Better: Considering the candidates being hired, is there any common thread or factor that seems to be working in their favor?
    • Better: May I use you as a reference if I find a job posted at your company? (Note: this is a productive, closed-ended question.)
  • Which of your company’s suppliers or customers seem to be growing the fastest?
    • Better: What is causing growth within your industry? What are the emerging trends?
    • Better: Is there someone at those companies I could contact for networking? (Again, a productive, closed-ended question.)
  • Within your network, who do you think might be open to talk to me?
    • Follow-up: May I use your name when I contact them? (Again, a productive, closed-ended question.)
    • Follow-up: I would like to know what to research; how could I best prepare for a conversation with him/her?

These questions are outstanding conversation starters. They generate deeper thought and more dialogue that is productive. They also shift most of the conversation from you to the other person.

Until using open-ended questions becomes natural, simply come to networking meetings prepared with a few of these questions. Clients routinely ask if it is okay to have a list of questions in front of them during a networking meeting. The answer is yes. People will be impressed to see you are prepared.


Creating your own list of questions is relatively easy to do, provided you give it time and thought before your networking meeting.

ALWAYS a Winning Tip: Once you have a list of questions, post them on flip-chart paper in your work area. Creating a visual dashboard of questions and periodically reviewing that list will help you recall great questions when you find yourself in a spur-of-the-moment networking conversation.

Examples: Gathering Networking Information

Until using open-ended questions becomes natural, bring this list of questions to networking meetings.

  • What challenges do you anticipate I will encounter as I am looking for a job opportunity?
  • What could I do to improve my resume?
  • Which community volunteering opportunities might be a productive place to meet others?
  • When you consider the last couple of employees hired by your company, what did they have going for them that likely resulted in a job offer?
  • As you look at core competencies required in my profession, what skills do you think I should further develop?
  • Who else should I talk with? How do you suggest I make that connection?
  • What other networking activities would you recommend?
  • If I find an online job with your company, might I be able to use you as a referral?
  • How might I improve the elevator statement I used to introduce myself at the beginning of our meeting?
  • How would you begin networking if you were in my shoes?
  • Where do you think I would find similar opportunities to the ones you have already described? (See Tip 20 on Spider Web Diagrams)
  • Would you explain more about how you used the Internet during your job search? What websites provided helpful information? How so? What job boards were productive for you? How so?
  • When would be the best time to contact you again?
  • Is there a professional association within your industry with a meeting or event I could attend?
  • I hear recruiters say I am under-/over-qualified. How would you recommend I handle their objections?

More Networking Tips

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