Most job hunters, realizing that networking is critical to their search, work hard to arrange face-to-face meetings with contacts. But setting up appointments with all the friends, professional acquaintances, and corporate VIPs you can is just the first step.

More important is knowing what to say once you arrive at the interview. Since wasting your contacts' time is a no-no, you should prepare an agenda before each meeting.

Decide what you want to find out from your contact, then prepare questions to elicit that information.

To simplify the question-writing process, review the following list of questions. Pick those that are most appropriate, then re-word them to fit your personal situation and speaking style.

Formulate some of your own as well, but don't try to squeeze in too many questions. It's better to leave contacts wanting to continue talking with you than to wear out your welcome!

What Work is Like
  1. Could you describe one of your typical workdays for me?
  2. What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
  3. What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
  4. What do you find most enjoyable?
  5. What are the negative aspects of your job?
  6. How many hours do you work in a typical week?
  7. Which seasons of the year are toughest in your job?
  8. How would you describe the corporate culture?
State of the Industry
  1. Is this field growing enough that there's room for someone like me?
  2. Are too many or too few people entering this profession?
  3. What developments on the horizon could affect future opportunities?
  4. This industry has changed dramatically in the past five years. What have you seen from inside your company? Where do you think the changes will happen in the next five years?
  5. How frequently do layoffs occur? How does it affect the morale of employees?
  6. Why do people leave this field or company?
  7. Who are the most important people in the industry today?
  8. Which companies have the best track record for promoting women and minorities?
  9. Are there opportunities for self-employment in your field?
  10. Where?
Money and Advancement
  1. What would be a reasonable salary range to expect if I entered this field? What is the long-term potential?
  2. What is the advancement potential in the field? What is a typical career path?
  3. How did you get your job?
  4. If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?
  5. How long does it take for managers to rise to the top?
  6. What is the background of most senior-level executives?
Skills and Experience
  1. What educational preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field?
  2. What qualifications do you seek in a new hire?
  3. How do most people enter this profession?
  4. Which of my skills are strong compared to other job hunters in this field?
  5. What do you think of the experience I've had so far? For what types of positions would it qualify me?
  6. Can you recommend any courses I should take before proceeding further with my job search?
  7. What companies or industries do you think I should target?
Fitting In
  1. Do you think my objective is clearly stated, realistic, and achievable?
  2. Considering my background, how well do you think I would fit in this company and/or profession?
  3. How does your company compare with others we've discussed?
  4. Would the work involve any lifestyle changes, such as frequent travel or working different shifts?
  5. Considering all the people you've met in your line of work, what personal attributes are essential for success?
  6. Taking into account my skills, education, and experience, what other career paths would you suggest I explore before making a final decision?

More Information

  1. Where can I find up-to-date information on salaries, employers, and industry issues?
  2. What professional journals and organizations should I be aware of?
  3. Is there anything else you think I need to know?
  4. Who else would you recommend I speak with? When I call, may I use your name?

SOURCE: Adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.D.s, You Should Hire Me! (Manassas Park: Impact Publications). Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.