Having posted an article the other day touting the benefits of “asking lots of questions” in a job search, I wanted to follow up with a few additional thoughts about the power of this approach — along with a few concrete examples to help illustrate this technique in action.
Again, just to reiterate, a job hunt will usually sputter out quickly if the only serious question a job hunter is pursuing is “who has a lead for me?” Not only are 99% of the people you meet unlikely to know of an immediate opening for you, but you’ll also annoy/bore everybody you encounter if chasing leads seems to be the sole extent of your conversational skills. So again, I encourage folks in transition to think hard about some specific “knowledge gaps” that they can focus on trying to fill during the course of their search efforts. These might be questions about the job hunting process itself, and the best practices for going about it, or other complementary questions that will sharpen your understanding of current trends in your profession or industry.
By way of example, I host a networking meeting every two weeks where I routinely ask the 30-40 participants involved to submit specific questions they’d like to get some help answering from the other folks in attendance. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions submitted recently:
• What are some local companies in need of complex issue management/crisis communications?
• What are the best strategies to keep your network aware of your job search progress?
• How do I ask some of my contacts to coffee without making them feel like I’m asking for a job?
• What is the most important thing hiring managers are looking for that will set the successful job applicant apart from the others?
• You are at a networking meeting and don’t know anyone. What technique do you use and entry point do you look for to get engaged with fellow attendees?
• At networking events, how does your answer to the ‘tell me about yourself’ question differ from your answer in a phone screen or face-to-face interview?
• What are some tips when you are trying to make the next move up in responsibility/authority, but have yet to hold that title?
• How do you set yourself apart when applying for highly competitive jobs where your experience is similar, but not identical to what’s requested?
• After several attempts emailing networking contacts with no response, what should you do?
• Anyone have advice on how to make better connections with panel interviewers?
• In your elevator speech, do you mention that you are changing career directions?
• Does anyone happen to have any useful insights or contacts related to the aerospace field that they’d be willing to share?
• What is your favorite LinkedIn group, blog, publication or event for learning about tech-related opportunities in the Seattle area?
• How do you best gain visibility into a company where you have no existing contacts?
• What are the best ways to find and connect with managers and directors in your field?
• How can one find target companies that are going through special changes such as restructuring or large software implementation projects?
• Which Seattle associations would you recommend for professional networking?
• Has the Seattle area job market recovered enough in late 2013 to ask for a salary increase?
So here’s what I want you to ask yourself. Having reviewed these sample queries, which ones do you think would be more likely to stimulate useful and interesting discussion with people — and which ones above wouldn’t likely lead to much productive feedback?
Which ones would you say are the most interesting of the bunch?
Which ones seem “smarter” or more nuanced/resourceful than others?
Which ones have you wondered about, yourself?
And lastly, do any of the above questions seem at all inappropriate — or appear to relate to issues that could easily get answered via some quick web research, so that a person doesn’t end up burning unnecessary and valuable networking time with people?
To me, there’s a real art to learning how to frame and ask a good question in this process. Done properly, it will not only lead you to the right kinds of people to rub elbows with, but also underscore your commitment to the process and how seriously you’re taking your employment search. So please chime in if you’d like to nominate any of the questions above as potentially “good examples” to emulate. And of course, if you happen to have any useful feedback around any of the issues that were raised, I’d certainly be willing to pass it along to the appropriate person who asked it, too, even though I’m keeping their names anonymous!
Looking forward to your input…