Often overlooked by job seekers, referral interviews can be the most effective interviews in your job search. Referral interviews have five goals:
  1. Establish goodwill and understanding.
  2. Give and obtain information.
  3. Receive advice and suggestions.
  4. Extend your network.
  5. Be remembered favorably and as a potential job candidate.
Once you are at the meeting, you should begin by thanking the individual for taking time to meet with you and why you selected him/her.

Reassure the person that you are not asking about an appropriate open position at this time.

Then give the purpose of your visit, as you stated when you first contacted the person for an interview. You could say something like this:
"I am currently researching alternatives in which I can use my skills as an electrician and ability to trouble-shooting problems. In my recent conversation with John Jones, he spoke very highly of you and suggested that you, as an owner of a successful electricial contracting business, would be an excellent source of nformation."
Your questions should be arranged in the following order, with two to five questions under each category:
  1. Ice breaker, small talk to build rapport.
  2. Questions about the person as related to information you're seeking.
  3. Questions about the industry: where it's going, current challenges.
  4. Questions about your background summary; how the person thinks your strengths and achievements can be utilized.
  5. Networking/referral questions.
You should develop specific questions for each person you interview. Ask questions that are answerable by the interviewee; keep them within the same sphere of reference.

It would be helpful to ask questions that get a broader response from the person and then ask him/her more specific questions to focus on ideas of particular interest.

Remember, you will be conducting interviews with people who have information critical to your successful job search. You need to try to pull that information out. You should ask the following questions:
  1. Do you think my objective (goal) is realistic, achievable, and clearly stated and supported?

  2. Based on my background, which industries or types of companies or organizations would seem most appropriate for me to explore?

  3. Are you aware of companies or industries that are in a growth or transitional position?

  4. Are there any current trends or developments which I should know about?

  5. What obstacles might I encounter in my job search? How can I overcome them?

  6. Where would you see someone like myself fitting into a company such as yours? (Ask only where appropriate. For instance, you wouldn't ask this of a restaurant owner if you wanted to be a brick layer.) You can ask the interviewee's thoughts on these specific areas:
  • Responsibilities
  • Qualifications
  • Problems dealt with
  • Advancement
  • Training
  • Travel
  • Kinds of people who succeed/fail
  • Salary range/starting and long-range potential
  1. Are there any professional organizations I should join, or publications I might want to read?

  2. If you were me, how would you go about finding a new position?

  3. Who are some people you would recommend I contact for information and advice?

SOURCE: Adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.D.s, You Should Hire Me! (Manassas Park: Impact Publications), pp. 59-61. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.