Experts Say These Are the 7 Best Networking Questions

Networking is an undeniably vital part of building success. Making professional connections can often advance your position within career fields more than any degree or previous experience ever could; however, the actual act of networking is pretty universally uncomfortable. Networking Question MarkDuring a typical event, you awkwardly roam a venue, handing out business cards, repeating your name, and forgetting the job title of nearly every other person in the room. You may consider leaving as early as possible or hiding in a bathroom just to avoid answering the same question thirty more times, and you’re not alone. 

The trick to effective networking is to stop asking, “What do you do?”. Instead, stand out by asking these seven memorable questions. You’ll be meeting and greeting your way to the top in no time. 


  1. What’s your story? 

Shocking as it might seem, most people aren’t interested in the work others do to make a living. This alternative inquiry comes from a Forbes article titled “The Best Questions To Ask At Networking Events.” As it turns out, people enjoy talking about themselves, and asking an open ended question allows your new contact to do just that. 
Giving someone the floor to share his story helps you genuinely get to know that person without having an agenda. When you ask what he does, you imply that you’re only interested in how his business ties might benefit you. In contrast, this question suggests that you care about him as a person. 
Plus, by asking for his story, you let your conversation partner divulge as little or as much information as he wants, so he feels comfortable talking with you. He might even request a follow up with another meeting to talk again later. Remember that networking is not about collecting as many business cards as possible in one evening. 
Focus on the long-game. You never know which introductions could become friendships or which friendships could become hugely important professional connections. 
  1. Would you like to meet for coffee sometime next week? 

Networking Points of Contact
Of course there’s no reason you have to wait on others to arrange meetings outside of networking events. During his inspiring Ted Talk “How to Hack Networking,” David Burkus points out the importance of not only making new connections but also of maintaining old ones. 
He suggests that networking with what he calls, “dormant ties,” can be both easier and more effective than attending stereotypical events. These ties represent people who you already know but haven’t kept up with or spoken to in a while. According to Burkus, they have probably established whole new social circles since your last interactions and are, therefore, just as valuable to you as a brand new contacts. 
Connecting with a dormant tie links you to his entire network of potential introductions, but he isn’t intimidating to talk to because you aren’t strangers. If branching out at a networking event sounds too scary, consider rekindling a few old relationships by inviting them to coffee sometime in the near future. Don’t make a vague plan to catch-up “sometime.” Set an actual appointment, and keep it. 
  1. What do you see as the major issues/ trends in the field today?

Harvard Business School also offers some guidance when it comes to networking question etiquette. The institution has devised this extensive list called, “Networking: Questions to ask,” which includes this inquisition. 
It’s effective because asking for one’s opinion on his job makes him feel heard and valued. You’re implying that you view this person as a credible source, an expert in his field. Thus, he’s likely to feel invested in your conversation and remember you as someone who respects others’ opinions. 
  1. What recommendations do you have for me regarding my job search, books, classes, etc. ?

Networking Recommendations
The Harvard Business School list also encourages asking for recommendations as a networking strategy. By doing so, you guarantee that you’ll get something out of your conversations, even if most of your attempts to make long lasting connections fail. 
The idea is that the professionals you meet will at least supply you with advice that you can then use to advance yourself. Strong suggestions that help you plan your next steps or find reading materials are sometimes worth just as much as introductions. 
  1. Who do you know in ______ ? 

However, if you are trying to gain referrals, don’t be afraid to be specific with your questions. This tip is also courtesy of David Burkus who claims most of your most crucial introductions are just one or two points of contact away. 
Usually, you know what you’re hoping to get out of a networking event, so once you’ve used  a few previous questions to break the ice and build report with people, find out who they know. It’s a small world, and your old friend from high school might happen to be friends with the hiring manager at that firm that booked you or an interview next week. Ask for an introduction or a recommendation, and hope for the best. There’s certainly no harm in trying. 
  1. What did you have to give up to achieve your current level of success?  

Networking Connections
Another useful piece from Forbes magazine “The 55 Best Questions To Ask To Break The Ice And Really Get To Know Someone” breaks questions down into three categories: mild, medium, and hot. They vary depending on how deep you want to challenge your conversations to go, and this inquiry is from the “hot” section. 
By asking something so intensely personal, you make your conversation stand out from all the others people have had at your networking event. You make strong connections and learn things about others in the room that you could use as golden nuggets of information on your road forward. This question might help you rethink priorities or change your thinking as you evaluate how your life circumstances compared to those you learn about through stories. 
  1. Have you met my friend? 

In Mark E. Sackett’s Ted Talk “The Art of Active Networking,” he asserts that Networking events become less difficult to endure if you go with someone who makes you comfortable, so you can share the load of introducing each other to other attendees. 
Your interactions will feel more natural and less intimidating. Not to mention, the two of you could cover considerably more social ground together than you might be able to on your own. 

If you’re still not sure how to prepare for networking events, consider joining a team with Professional Network Connections. They’ll help you perfect your pitch, make meaningful connections, and expand your client base. Plus, plenty of networking events give you the chance to practice working a room with our seven expert recommended questions. 

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