Meeting and discussing with strangers can be somewhat intimidating. Funnily, that’s all that networking is all about.
However, networking may be immensely crucial for professional career advancement. A good network can yield job offers and get you more referrals.
Like most other interviews, curiosity makes any networking meeting successful. But it’s hard to be curious when you don’t even know anything about the person in question.
In this article, I’ll outline ten open ended questions to consider asking at your next networking event to expand your network.
These questions have worked for experienced networkers, and these questions are a handy list of their proven success template for building good networks at networking events.
Why is networking important?
A networking event is an avenue for professionals of a particular profession to meet and make connections.
The goal of these events may be a seminar, product presentation, volunteering or community service, roundtable discussions, and sometimes, plain conversations.
However, you can always use networking events to your advantage if you know how to go about it. Since these events usually feature top industry experts, you can build meaningful relationships to help you land a job in the future.
Meeting industry experts at a networking event may be the beginning of your interview, but one with which you can freely ask questions.
In these events, you want to exercise maximum confidence to ask questions that benefit your discussions.
Remember, you don’t only network with people offering you a job. Any industry expert in your network can write a recommendation letter to increase your chances of getting hired.
Questions to ask while networking
When questioning someone at a networking meeting, you don’t want to spin off questions randomly from your head.
You want each question to have a meaningful link to the next, so you can learn as much as possible about them to play your next moves.
That’s why you should consider asking these questions in the order in which they appear here. Without getting answers to some of the earlier questions, the following questions will be impossible to ask.
1- What brought you here?
People attend networking events for various reasons; learning from industry leaders, showcasing their products, finding business partners, or for wannabes, getting inspiration.
Before starting further discussions with your prospect, you should always inquire why they’re at the networking event.
The opposite of this question is starting a discussion by saying you are at the event. Listing your reasons for attending an event positions you as someone who needs help without having anything to offer.
If you want the other person to take you seriously, you must position yourself as someone who can offer some help.
No matter what brought someone to an event, don’t rule out the power of a network. If people in your network can’t help you, you may be able to help them.
2- What qualities could help someone attain success in this industry?
If you’re looking for an opportunity to work at your interviewee’s organization, this question could give you some insight as to what qualities matter for success in their organization.
While every industry expert knows the basic skills required to attain success in their given industry, companies may require their employees to possess qualities based on their drives and motives.
Based on their response, you can determine which of your skills to improve to get a better shot at a job in their company.
3- What’s your opinion about [a recent event that happened in the industry]?
This question gives you a positive impression if your prospect is at a decision-making rank in their organization.
Asking this question shows that you’re following industry trends and makes you come across as more knowledgeable and memorable.
Depending on how well you time this question, it could serve as the sequel to your interview. Ensure you ask about an event or story that you’ve researched extensively, so you can continue the discussion for as long as your prospect is interested.
4- How did you get into this industry?
Knowing how someone started their career in an industry could serve as a template for your professional career.
If they’re an industry expert, you can ask how they climbed up to their current role in the company.
With these questions, you should learn some of the qualities required to attain quicker success in their specific organization and the industry as a whole.
5- What do you enjoy most about working in this industry?
This question isn’t the same as ‘do you like your job?’
No matter how badly someone hates their job, specific things must be keeping them in the industry.
Since you most likely work in similar industries, you may find a common interest in your likes, strengthening the relationship you’re building and thereby growing your network.
You should generally avoid asking what they hate most about working in the industry, as you don’t want to hear stories of low paychecks or an abusive boss.
6- What do you wish someone has told you earlier in your career?
You can’t get enough good advice. If you’re discussing with someone widely regarded as an industry expert, this question is a perfect way to request expert advice.
This question provokes thought and compels your prospect to share tips that have helped them climb to higher positions in the industry.
This question also makes people think you regard them as experts, making them more comfortable to further discussions with you, further building your network.
7- How can I contact you after this event?
The purpose of asking questions and building relationships during a networking event is to expand your network, isn’t that right?
To keep the connections in your network at an arm’s length, you must have the contact information of all the people in your network at least.
To this effect, you should avoid ending a discussion without getting contact information from the new person in your network.
While you may get a business card, it’s always important to ask how to contact them. Some people never read their emails, and some hate phone calls.
Familiarizing yourself with their preferred mode of communication makes it easier to contact them whenever you need their help with something in the future.
Questions to avoid at a networking event
Since some questions yield the best results at a networking event, some are absolute blunders.
A general rule is to keep everything professional. Don’t ask questions that could have an emotional impact while networking.
Some questions appear pretty harmless but are dangerously off-putting at networking events. Here are three questions to avoid at a networking event.
8- Do you like your job?
To answer frankly, some people don’t. While this question sounds perfect for those who love their job, others who don’t will find this question uncomfortable to answer.
You can start by asking your prospect what they like about the industry. If the person goes on and on about what they enjoy doing at their current job, you can try throwing this question at them.
However, you don’t get much benefit from asking this question. If you avoid it entirely, do; you don’t want to bring back someone’s unpleasant workplace memories.
9- How much do you make?
Asking how much someone makes is terrible nose poking. Most, if not everyone, will be unwilling to share earning figures with you for obvious reasons.
That’s even beside the point. Why would you want to know how much someone makes in the first place?
Salary figures aren’t what you discuss at networking events unless they share their earning figures readily (ahem, network marketers).
10- What do you do when you’re not at work?
Nothing that you need to know. Some people get uncomfortable discussing their private affairs. During a professional discussion, anything out of the office is a personal affair.
Some people work another job to make enough money to make ends meet, while others care for ill family members when they’re not too busy at work.
This information isn’t what you’ll like to share or hear at a networking event. Since the whole discussion should appear friendly and not uncomfortable, you may want to stay out of discussions relating to their life outside the office.
If there is something specific you need to know, like a course they run for starters, you can ask about it directly, as that’s more formal.
Networking events are crucial for any professional. They’re one of the best ways to build sustainable relationships with experts from your industry.
While these relationships could help you land a job in the future, there are more benefits to having an extensive network.
To add someone to your network, you must be ready with some questions to get them into a meaningful discussion, eventually landing their contacts.
While it’s usually taking to come up with these questions, you don’t have to. Here are ten open-ended questions to ask while networking that works well across any industry.
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