Ask Open-Ended Questions to Become a Better Networker

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Networking can be a stressful experience. You are often thrust into a room of like-minded professionals and have to make the best possible impression in the shortest amount of time. With that in mind, what kinds of questions do you think you should be asking? It is tempting to fall back on questions with simple yes or no answers, but these questions tend to be uninteresting, show off none of your industry experience/expertise, and make a shallow impression on the person you’re trying to network with. In short, they don’t work. It’s much more effective to rely on open-ended questions that engage the responder and help to spark a dialogue. Below is a list of great questions to start using:

  • How did you get involved in the industry? – People like to tell their personal stories. This question is also great because it naturally leads to many others.
  • What advice would you give someone trying to move up in the industry? – This question flatters the speaker’s accomplishments and often yields great information you can use to further your own career.
  • What do you like most about what you do? – It’s always best to keep networking conversations positive.
  • What makes you different from others in the industry? – This question gives the speaker room to brag about their accomplishments and leads to a number of branching questions.
  • What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about failure? – This question genuinely provokes reflective and thought-provoking answers. It also helps position you as a part of that dream for the future.
  • What is the funniest/strangest thing you have experienced on the job? – Again, this question gets people talking about their own experiences. Just resist the urge to interject with your own war story.
  • What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the industry? – This question is great when you are speaking to a person from the generation before you.
  • What trends do you see coming down the pipeline in the future? – This encourages people to think about their company/industry from a macro perspective and produces thought-provoking answers.
  • You had a great week – what are you going to do now? – Sometimes it helps to sprinkle in a question that isn’t directly related to your jobs.

As a final piece of advice, remember to always let the other person do the majority of the talking. That is too rare in conversations, and showing yourself to be a great listener makes a bolder statement than trying to show off your own accomplishments/ideas. Find more resources to help you improve your network and your job search for Pittsburgh employment and more by contacting the team at JH Technical Services.

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