When you meet someone new who could potentially point you in the right direction toward a new job or opportunity, you have to ask the right questions to maximize your time and the value of the meeting. You should think carefully about the purpose of your meeting is – is it to ask for a job straight up? Ask for additional contacts in the industry you are targeting? Or is it to gain intelligence on either the market in general or the specific company with which your contact is associated? Assuming that just one, or all three of these aims resonate with you, here are three questions we recommend you ask to guarantee a successful meeting.
- “Are there open roles in your company that fit my skills and experience? And if so, how do I go about applying for them?” This is the most direct approach to take during the meeting to see if the person you are meeting can help you find and land a new job opportunity. With the follow-up question focused on the process and not on what the person can do for you, you are signaling your understanding that you will have to line up for the role just like everyone else and that you are not after any special treatment. Of course, if your contact offers to endorse you separately to help your cause, that is up to them and you should graciously accept.
- “Do you think you can introduce me to two or three other people in your organization who might be able to help me locate the right opportunity?” If, during your meeting, it is clear to you that your contact may not have direct knowledge of an open role that fits you, steer the conversation toward obtaining further contacts and hence, further meetings to help your search. Your contact will likely be happy to direct you to others who might be better positioned to get you in front of a hiring manager or recruiter with more information on available jobs.
- “What is the current hiring trend in your industry at the moment?” Assuming your contact is an insider to the industry you are targeting, she should have direct knowledge of whether opportunities are expanding or contracting and a sense of what functions are hot at the moment. If your contact cannot help you with objectives 1 and 2, asking this question can give you an idea of how long it might take to land a new role, which is valuable information to have should the horizon be longer than you anticipated. You can then direct your resources toward alternative industries or re-focus your efforts on the job you currently have.
Networking meetings are a critical complement to a thorough job search. Continue to pursue leads you find listed on company websites or job boards but recognize the fact that the opportunities that materialize the fastest will come through face-to-face contacts. You might be drinking a lot of coffee these days, but these meetings will help you position yourself to secure the right role in a shorter amount of time.