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5 Questions You Must Answer During Job Search

Whether you are an old salty veteran of the job search process or a fresh new recruit, there are some things you need to know. While networking, people will be curious about you.

That’s a good thing.

You want people asking you questions. Assuming you are comfortable in the answering.

Are you?

Here’s what you should expect:

First, people will want to know things about you. Intrusive, I know. But they will.

Second, they will ask you these questions before you are ready to answer them.

Third, if you don’t answer them well, you will be penalized. #Harsh

Now, the good news.  I’m here to help.

Ready?  Here are the five questions.  Can you answer these?

1. What do you do?

An innocent enough question, right? You’ll get this question in the line at Starbucks, at the ballgame, a cocktail party and yes at a networking event. If you are out of work, the worst answer to this question is “well, I’m out of work”. It reduces you to “needy” status and changes the nature of the conversation. “Out of work” is also not what you do anyway is it?

No, it’s not.

The right answer? Tell people what you do (i.e. “I help companies build strong brands”). That will elicit a “how do you do that?” and you are off to the races – toward a productive peer-to-peer conversation.  One that will eventually lead to “so, where do you work?” – this is an opening to share your availability and, of course, your list of target companies.  This is also the right answer because it is benefit-driven. A lot more interesting than “I’m a marketing manager”.

2. How’s it going?

If people know you are out of work (friends, family, former co-workers), they will be curious how you are faring in this tough economy. The easy answer is to play the “woe is me” card and tell them that job search sucks and the market couldn’t be worse. 

Even if it is true, please do not go negative. Please.

That will only elicit sympathy – a far less action-oriented emotion.  However, if you instead share a small win with me, I will be engaged. Your positive snippet will make me want to know more and perhaps make me more interested in stepping in to help. You can also share your small wins on my career LinkedIn group so others can learn how you did it.

3. What are you looking for?

If you don’t already know, this is my biggest issue with job seekers and a big, early focus of the new job search strategy software. If you are vague, general, all over the place or (the classic) “open to anything”, you will move the person asking from interested to unwilling or unable to help.

Watch this video:

Does this video help you see the risk in being vague? Instead, answer the question with solid details (like the last answer shown in the video – miss it? – watch it again). When you do, you get people instantly thinking about who they might know who can help you.

4. How can I help?

This is a more direct question.  And while similar to “what are you looking for?” it’s different in that you can specifically offer someone a simple task.  Such as “do you know anyone who works at Nike (or any of your other targets)?”. You can ask them about others in their network that also do what you do or work in your industry. You can ask them to review your networking bio to give them a more complete sense of your background and value. And you can ask them about suggestions for new networking events to attend. It is important to have a solid list of “needs”? Please don’t say “Hey, just keep your ears open for me”. It’s too easy of an “out” for people and is not likely to bear any fruit.

5. What’s memorable about you?

While it’s unlikely that anyone will come out an ask this question, everyone needs to know this information. It separates you from the crowd and offers some helpful ways for people to remember you and to mention you to someone else even weeks after you meet. Have nothing memorable?  I doubt that.  We all have something to share. Here’s a post about being memorable. And a list of questions to help you figure it out.

So there you have it.

Do you feel more prepared to get out there and network productively?  What other questions do you think job seekers should be ready to answer?

Thanks pasukaru76 for the photo via Flickr

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Career Networking

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