Asking Questions to Discover Needs

job search Mar 02, 2021

Many people, operating with the job seeker identity, consider networking as a people chase. They look for people to ask "Are you hiring? Or do you know anyone hiring?". They feel uncomfortable--and thus resist doing this--because they don't know what to say when someone says "No". They resist those uncomfortable silences that follow the negative response. We suggest a better purpose for networking--discovering organizations you can help achieve their goals and resolve their problems.

First, adopting the "how can I help?" attitude remains crucial to this approach. The attitude includes a recognition that 1) you possess skills, abilities, and experiences (that you love to use) and 2) some companies and organizations need those same skills, abilities, and experiences to achieve their goals or to overcome the barriers preventing them from achieving those goals. You job is to find the companies that could benefit from your help.

Second, you ask questions from a professional (not job seeker) identity to discover organizational wants and needs. Answers to your questions may be found from three main sources:

  1. Online sources including Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, and the company's web page
  2. Non-technical people include people who do not work in the field or occupation you do
  3. Technical people include people performing tasks you wish to perform or related ones

We will review discovering organizational wants and needs through online sources and technical people in future articles. This article will focus on asking non-technical questions.

We strongly suggest that you limit the length of conversations with non-technical people to no more than 7 minutes. The following outline will guide you through the conversation:

  • Explain why you want the information: "Because I am a <job title> I'm always interested in how companies do <job action>. May I ask you a few questions?
  • Ask how the organization fulfills that role: "How does your company <job action>? Is the team internal or do you outsource it? How big is the team? Where is the team located?"
  • Identify positive performance: "What do you feel that team does well?"
  • Explore how you can help: "What do you wish they did better?"
  • Open the door to more questions and a referral to a technical person: "Thank you for the information. Could I contact you if I have additional questions? Who do you recommend I talk to on the team with my more technical questions?

You can use this script of questions with anyone in any situation: at parties (when we start having them again), at networking events, in any social setting, and even in lines in stores. Use the outline with family, friends, former colleagues, and connections on social media. Once again, maintain the "how can I help?" attitude. Think like a professional. It will make so much sense to have these conversations when you maintain both perspectives.

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