The Top 10 Informational Interview & Networking Questions
Networking is one of the most effective ways to find a new job. However, it is also an area many Classy Career Girls struggle (inlcuding myself!). If you are an introvert or just don’t feel comfortable networking, I get it!
I have been getting a lot of networking questions lately, so I wanted to consolidate them all and put them in one place. Hopefully, these will help you get your networking groove on!

1) How should you prepare for a networking conference? What should you do before you actually attend?

Make sure you have reviewed the website and you know what the organization is all about. Try to find out who will be at the event and research their professional history on LinkedIn and Google. Be ready to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” Have a one-minute elevator speech rehearsed and ready to go so that you shine and make everyone you meet remember you.
Remember your business cards.  Make sure you know how to get to the event and you allow an extra 15 minutes for traffic and parking. Plan ahead what you will wear and make sure it is ironed and clean.  Also, know the goal of the event and what you want to get out of the event.

Be ready to create a great conversation by having some networking questions all ready to go such as:

  • What got you involved in this organization/event?
  • What is the most difficult part of your job?
  • What has been your most important work experience?
  • What is a typical day like for you?
  • What is the best job you ever had?  What is the worst?
  •  What was it like in the town you grew up in?
  • What is your favorite restaurant?  Why?
  • What is your favorite holiday?  What do you enjoy about it?
  • Tell me about your family?
  • Tell me something most would never guess about you.

2) Conferences normally include general sessions, meals, and cocktail receptions. Do you have any networking tips specific to those different activities?

Relax and enjoy the people that you meet. Conferences are such a great way to get to know people because most of the time everyone is relaxed and ready to mingle. Here are Classy Career Girl’s Do’s and Don’ts for office social parties:
  • Use the party as an opportunity to meet people and get to know them better.
  • Look at what your boss is doing and how he/she is behaving. Keep your drinking/dancing within those bounds.
  • Have a good time.
  • Act classy and dress classy.
  • Leave early. You don’t have to stay until the end. Nothing good happens after midnight…Just don’t be the first to leave.
  • Don’t drink too much. Two drinks should be your max.
  • Don’t wear an extremely short skirt or show cleavage. Even though it isn’t the office, I would still go with a professional dress rather than the dress you wore for college.
  • Don’t talk about work.
  • Don’t gossip.
  • Don’t flirt.

3) I know a lot of people get overwhelmed when meeting a lot of people at once. Do you have any tips for helping remember people’s names?

Repeat the other person’s name back after they say it.  Write it down immediately afterward and make a note next to it of something you will remember about them. Take their business card and write their hair color or something interesting that you talked about on the back.  If you forget, it’s OK. Don’t be afraid to ask again. Also, repeat their name back to them. Say, “It’s nice to meet you, First name.”

4) I was reading about your networking challenge. What have you learned by forcing yourself to make these connections?

The first thing I learned is that finding people to network with isn’t that hard. During the challenge, I tried a variety of ways to connect with new people: I used Google to find professionals I thought were interesting. I went to networking events and met people, and asked for their business cards so I could request informational interviews after the event. I brainstormed all of the jobs that I would love to have at my current company and did informational interviews with people in those positions.
I also searched my social media connections for people I knew virtually but wanted to connect with in person. And here’s what I found: Every single person I emailed for an informational interview emailed me back. What’s more, at the end of each meeting, I always asked the person if there was anyone else he or she could introduce me to—and most of the time, they said yes! I was amazed how my networking took off with just this simple question. From this, I quickly learned that people really do want to help you—all you have to do is ask.
The second thing I learned is planning ahead is crucial to your success. Part of the difficulty in networking is that it can get pushed off your priority list if you don’t make time for it. So, at the beginning of each month, I made sure to block off days in my calendar for interviewing, and I tried to set up all my meetings for the month in advance. Then, I wrote about what I was planning to do on my blog and found someone to keep me accountable.  I also made sure I was fully prepared before each meeting. I created a list with all of my questions for the person ahead of time. And I learned to always be ready to give a quick elevator pitch about myself—most of my interviews were planned, but a few happened at the spur of the moment.
The third thing I learned is that networking is a waste of time if you don’t take action. You can easily spend hours and hours finding and meeting new people. But, if you don’t stay in touch with them or don’t do anything with what you learn, it’s all a waste of time. Make sure to follow up with people by sending them thank-you notes and keeping in touch with them by email and social media. Also, keep a journal of all your notes from networking. Have one place where you log who you met, what you learned, and what you need to do to follow up. This way, you’ll have everything organized, keep track of what you learned, and be able to easily reference your contacts when you need to get in touch with them in the future.
The last important thing I learned during my challenge is don’t forget about your friends and family. I originally assumed that the hardest part of my challenge was going to be meeting people I didn’t know. But, I was wrong—I realized that it was even harder for me to stay in touch with friends and family, especially with those who didn’t live nearby. Actively networking really reminded me to get in touch with those people, too. Yes, networking is about meeting new people, but what’s just as important is maintaining relationships with those who are close to you.

5) I sent many requests for informational interviews, and I didn’t hear back from most of them. So far 3 interviews out the 20 or more requests sent out. What is your advice?

Not everyone will respond and don’t feel bad about it. I like to think that if someone isn’t willing to help someone else, they aren’t the type of person that I even want in my network anyways. So celebrate those three that emailed you back, and get busy meeting with them and asking for referrals!
The other thing you might want to do is go back to the informational request email and examine if there might be something turning these people off. Is it too long?  Does it say you only want 15 minutes of their time? Is the email specifically directed to them or their company and did you include some type of compliment or statement so they know it isn’t just a generic email you send to everyone?

6) What if you forgot to ask who else they know, could you ask after the fact?

YES!!  Just send them a thank you email and ask them if they know anyone else that would be good for you to speak with next.

7) After the informational interview, a thank you is sent out and you don’t hear from the person you interview. How do you keep the relationship going after the interview?

My favorite ways to keep in touch are by letting them know your progress or sending them information about an event that they might like to attend.  Here are some other ideas:
  • Send them a link or resource
  • Send them an update on how you are doing and what you have been up to
  • Send them a book that you just finished reading and you think they would enjoy
  • Ask them a new question showing that you have done a lot of research in their field
  • Introduce them to someone else that you think would be beneficial in their network – but ONLY if beneficial for them
  • Email them and ask them if you can help or volunteer for them – do they have any special projects you could help with?
  • Follow up on a new social media account – Connect with them on Twitter, Google + or LinkedIn if you haven’t already and they are already on there.
  • Start a blog or an online resume and send them a link to it. (It must be very impressive and well put together though!)
  • Host a lunch meeting with a few professionals in the industry and connect them all together
  • Ask them if there is anyone else that they can connect you with in their company to do an informational interview (If you are super serious about their company)
  • Ask them if they know anyone in the industry you are trying to get into that they could connect you with
  • Do some research and present them with a report on how their business could save money or find more clients.  Show them that they NEED to hire you.

8) How often do you keep in touch with the people you network with?

I would check in every few months or so but there really is no rule.  It really depends if you have something to say to them. So in a few months, if you are really still interested in their career or industry, you should have done a lot of research on it by then.  You should have a lot more things to talk to them about or ask them about. Maybe you ask them a question more specific that demonstrates your knowledge and desire to move into the field.  Then they will think, “Wow she is still really interested.  Maybe she would be perfect for this position.”

9) What’s your elevator pitch?

I try hard to follow the “You know how…” “Well, what I do is…” model of an introduction because it really helps me get away from the generic “I am a Consultant.” or “I am a Career Coach.”
So I have two elevator pitches for my two jobs. I am still working on consolidating them into one though….
Elevator Pitch for Job #1: You know how there are navy ships in the ocean that have communication systems onboard so they can communicate back to land?  Well, what I do is help coordinate the funding so that those communication systems get onboard the ship in time.
Elevator Pitch for Job #2: You know how there are a lot of young professionals stuck in jobs they hate?  Well, I help them get unstuck and out of jobs they hate and into jobs they love.

10) I don’t feel like I am a natural networker. Any tips for advice that you can recommend?

This answer comes from my Get Ahead Club interview with Debra Shigley, Author of The Go-Getter Girls Guide: Get What You Want in Work and Life (and Look Great While You’re At It).
“Take a step back and lessen your goals for an event.  It is not useful to have a bunch of business cards when you leave an event.  It’s better to have a goal of maybe just talking to one person that you don’t know and start a conversation.  Make a personal mission statement in your mind of what you are ging to do. Maybe try to make one meaningful connection or introduce yourself to everyone at the table. Something that you can feel really good about at the end of the event and smile.  Also, learn what style of networker you are. For example, not everyone is great at going to be conferences and events but one-on-one you are amazing.  So maybe instead of going to big events, identify 3-5 people to set up an informational interview and learn more instead of transactional mindless chitchat at a big networking event.”

What are your biggest networking questions? I’d love to answer them!

Hi, I'm Anna!

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