Not sure how to keep the conversation rolling with a new business contact? Try these 10 questions to ask when networking.
by Scott Bradley
When networking either face to face or online, trying to figure out the right questions to ask someone can be difficult sometimes. Here is my focused list of the top 10 questions I like asking people when networking effectively.
As you will see below, making sure that you ask questions starting with who, what, where, when, why and how ensures that quality conversation is exchanged between each of you over the course of the conversation. Merely asking yes/no questions gets you nowhere in a networking conversation and can lead to a lot of awkward silences and weird exchanges.
Keeping in mind that people love talking about themselves, these questions will surely help you continually build better relationships with new contacts that you make and allow you to grow relationships with new people you have already established a good rapport with.
1. What do you do?
This questions is a great opener question to get to know someone, as it is only natural to be curious about what the other person does for a living. After asking this question, you can dive into a whole lot of other questions that keep the conversation moving.
2. How long have you done it?
This question is a followup to the “What do you do?” question and shows you, as the receiver of the answer, how committed they are to what they have been doing.
3. What did you do before?
This question also gives you a feel for where your contact has been, and the types of cool experiences you can talk about as the conversation matures over the next five to fifteen minutes of conversation.
4. What made you choose your profession?
I love hearing the answer to this question because when the other person is answering it, you can tell if they are really passionate about what they do, or are feeling a little stuck on their path of life. The answer to this question can lead to more interesting discussion as the conversation matures.
5. What school did you attend, and what made you decide to go there?
It is always great to see if there are any connections that are made based on where you graduated from school. I have had many times where the other person says they went to a school that some of my friends graduated from, and then when I say “Did you know (a friend of mine)?” they sometimes say they did. When they tell you why they went there, it also allows you to understand more about where they are coming from as a person.
6. What did you study in school?
This is also another great question that opens up more questions that can be answered throughout the conversation to help you get to know each other better on a more personal level. A great followup question to this question would be “What influenced you to study ________?”
7. What fun things do you like to do outside of work?
This question allows you to get to know a contact on a more personal level, and further opens up the possibility that you both can have a relationship outside of the “typical” networking relationship. Having many types of interactions with your contacts is always a good thing, because as you expose and explore the many layers of each of you, the more trust is built up in the relationship over time.
8 . What is it in your life that inspires you?
This question uncovers the person’s motivations and the triggers that inspire them to take action on anything they choose to do. It is amazing to hear the answers to this question because I love seeing a person’s eyes light up and hearing the passion in their voice.
9. What kinds of books do you like to read, and which ones have had the greatest impact on you?
This is also one of my favorite questions to ask, as this question can lead to many other questions after they initially answer. I love asking this question toward the end of a conversation because it allows me to put the pieces of the puzzle together and truly understand this person and where they are coming from. Sharing great books with old and new contacts is always fun, and further discussing the many topics and ideas in the books themselves is truly enjoyable for me.
10. Where do you see yourself five years from today?
This question illustrates to you the person’s goals and motivations for their life, and further lets you know how you can possibly help them achieve whatever it is they have their mind set on. Helping your contacts get to where they want to go will in turn help you get to where you want to go, because after helping them, they will feel an inner psychological obligation to help you in return!
11. How do you think we can mutually work together?
I know the headline says 10, but I like to under-promise and over-deliver. This question is the question that seals up the conversation to the T, because it truly shows that you are getting to know this person for the right reasons. Forming and building win-win relationships is the only way to network, and this question lets the other person know that you are true and genuine yourself!
I hope you enjoyed these questions! Please feel free to put other good ones that I may have missed in the comments section! I look forward to your responses!