The questions you want to ask when networking with someone will generally be determined by where you are in the job search process.
Think of it like a funnel. When you first start off, you’ll probably want to focus on gaining a wide overview of the critical issues, challenges and trends within the industries or sectors that you’re interested in. Further into your search, your questions will probably become more focused and precise. Always ask yourself ‘what is it most useful for me to know at this point?’
It goes without saying that doing your initial online research prior to your meeting is essential. Here are examples of the kinds of question that you could ask. You’ll notice they move from being quite general in nature to more specific:
The sector or industry
- What key industry trends are you seeing right now and why?
- Who are the key players? What is their positioning and market share?
- What are the critical issues currently facing this sector?
- What future developments do you see on the horizon? How could they impact opportunities?
- What’s the structure of the organisation?
- What are the particular challenges being faced right now?
The person you are talking to
- What’s your own background?
- What are the qualities that make you successful in your role?
- What do you like best about your role? What’s most challenging?
- If you had your time again, what would you change and not change about your career path?
The work itself
- What skills do you use most in your role right now? Which ones do you anticipate will be needed in the future?
- What parts of your role do you find most challenging and why?
- What motivates you to remain?
- What’s on your agenda right now?
Remuneration and development
- What is a typical salary structure in this field?
- How are people’s contribution recognised?
- What career development opportunities exist in this field/organisation?
Skills and experience required
- What suggestions do you have for how I target my CV?
- What skills are in particular demand right now?
- Which do you anticipate being in demand in the future?
- What qualifications are required and recognised?
- Is there anything you suggest I do to help me break into this field? For example, take a voluntary position, complete a course, brush up my skills in X?
Fitting in and organisation culture
- How would you describe the culture of the organisation?
- What kind of people do well and why?
- How well do you think I would fit with this company and sector?
Further information and referrals
- What are the professional journals and membership associations that I should I be aware of?
- Are there any social media groups I should join?
- Who else would you recommend that I talk you? Would you mind putting us in touch?