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Networking Conversations with Hiring Decision Makers

If you have the fortune of connecting with a hiring decision maker - a person who is directly involved in the hiring process, including a supervisor or small business owner - he or she may want to meet you to share information about his/her company or to discuss the occupation of interest to you. If he or she has agreed to meet with you in this capacity, you should prepare yourself for what is called an informational interview.

As a general rule, if you are invited to attend an informational interview, you should respect the situation and not ask about job openings. Instead, you want to send the message that you are focused on helping the hiring decision maker and his or her department become more successful. This trait will set you apart from most jobseekers. By impressing the hiring decision maker with the following questions, the conversation may turn an informational interview into a job interview. Don’t be surprised if, after you’ve asked these questions, the hiring decision maker begins asking you questions about your experience.

  • What are the most important opportunities and challenges facing your department/business?
  • What are the factors that drive profitable growth (if you're talking to someone in a for-profit business)/help the agency accomplish its mission (if you're talking to someone in a public sector or nonprofit organization)?
  • What are the traits and skills that enable an employee to contribute to the success of your department or the business?
  • Why do customers do business with your company rather than a competitor?
  • What can employees do to provide excellent customer service?
  • What employee behaviors contribute to:
    • higher productivity?
    • lower costs?
    • greater profitability?
    • increased quality? 

Hiring decision makers also have personal needs and interests, and they're eager to find and hire people who will make their lives easier. The following questions help uncover the skill sets hiring decision makers are looking for in their employees.

  • What employee behaviors cause aggravation, hassle, or risk for you?
  • What employee behaviors make your life easier?
  • What are your personal on-the-job priorities? If I was working in your department, what could I do to help you achieve them?

This final question reveals whether or not the hiring decision maker feels you have the desired skillset for their company/agency. If for some reason you do not possess the desire skill set, that’s okay! You can either assure the hiring decision maker that you will work to obtain those skills or begin searching for a more suitable position.

  • Do I have the skills and experience needed to benefit your company/agency? If not, what would allow me to make a more valuable contribution?