Getting Your Foot in the Door: The Best Questions to Ask When Networking

By January 10, 2018Uncategorized

Welcome to the QCIB 2018 Networking Advice and Recommendations post.  This post has been compiled with the intention of helping you improve your networking skills while at QCIB 2018 and offering some insight into how some Commerce third and fourth years get their foot in the door.

The following students have been contacted to share insight into their approaches to networking.  Without their kind support we would be unable to post this article.  We reached out to a diverse range of individuals in the Queen’s Commerce program, the ones included were some of those that responded to our queries.  We asked three question to those who agreed to provide insight:

  • What is your approach to networking?
  • What is your favourite question to ask?
  • How do you differentiate yourself to reps?

For some respondents, we only had them answer one or two of the three questions. We hope this offers a bit of a starting point and offers ideas on the type of questions to ask reps, speakers, and even upper years.

 

Hannah Lomas

QCIB 2018 Logistics Coordinator

Summer Experience: Deloitte Audit (2017), Deloitte Financial Advisory (2018)

 

What is your approach to networking?

 “It is often echoed by many, but I think the best approach is to simply be yourself. The goal of networking is not to impress representatives with your list of qualifications or your GPA, but rather it is an opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal and communication skills. To generate a natural conversation, I think that showing genuine interest can go a long way in generating a flowing dialogue. By listening attentively asking thoughtful questions, students can learn a lot from a good conversation.”

“While networking can be intimidating, it is important to realize that working professionals are still real people, with their own interests and hobbies! If you feel that the conversation may be getting a bit dry for both parties, bring up a non-work related discussion topic, such as last night’s hockey game, or upcoming travel plans. A more personal conversation may strengthen your connection with a representative, and can serve as a positive differentiator as a student. It is important to find common ground with representatives, so students can have the opportunity to talk about themselves. Whether it be a shared mutual interest, or a previously visited travel destination, commonalities can serve as a foundation for a lighter conversation, that will make the networking experience more enjoyable for everyone.”

What is your favourite question to ask? 

 “I enjoy asking about secondments and travel experience, as I am interested in working abroad. I also enjoy asking about personal hobbies and interests. I often ask about sports or recreational activities, because as an athletic person, I can often find common interests relating to sports or the outdoors, which personalizes our conversation and gives me the opportunity to talk about some of my past experiences.”

How do you differentiate yourself to reps?

“I differentiate myself by asking thoughtful questions. Asking a good question can be very easy if you do some preparation and research beforehand. Simply learning more about a company, including its operations, its practices or any upcoming deals, can give you the tools to ask a relevant question that will impress the representative. That being said, asking a pointed question does require some careful discretion as it must be asked at the right time so the conversation is not entirely disrupted.”

 

Scott Oakes

QCIB 2018 Co-Chair

Summer Experience: RBC, Technology & Operations Finance Department (2017).

 

What is your approach to networking?

“Preparation is key to my approach to networking. I found success choosing two or three companies I was most interested in at networking sessions and doing some background research on them beforehand. It is difficult to build meaningful connections with recruiters and company representatives if you approach every company with the same set of general questions. By focusing all of your time on a couple of companies, it allows you to engage in deeper conversations where you can ask more personal questions and let your personality shine through.”

What is your favourite question to ask? 

“What advice would you give someone in my shoes trying to get a job and learn more about your company?”

How do you differentiate yourself to reps?

“I tried to differentiate myself by asking representatives about whether competitiveness would help me succeed at their company, which allowed me to allude to my competitive spirit I gained as a Varsity athlete. A lot of recruiters and reps were former athletes as well, and it was a great way to relate to them on a more personal level!”

 

Prag Rajdev

Former FreshSight Queen’s Finance Coordinator &  Senior Consultant

Summer Experience: Cormark Securities, iBanking

 

What is your approach to networking?

 Virtual approach: Cold emails and be prepared for the call.

In person approach: Be personable, and be prepared.  Make sure you know the firm, what they’ve worked on, etc.

What is your favourite question to ask? 

“I don’t really have a favorite question. However, I like to ask about their favorite deal/project, why they chose their sector, what changes they’ve seen since working within the sector.  Depending on individual’s years of experience, I may ask the differences in the different places they’ve worked or roles they’ve had.”

 

Jake Clements

Queen’s University Investment Council (QUIC)—Analyst, Energy and Utilities

Summer Experience: Sentry Investments, Energy Fund as an Equity Research Analyst

 

What is your approach to networking?

 I like to utilize the communities I am engaged with at both Queen’s and through my extracurricular activities to meet people in the industries that I am interested in. I don’t think there is a general, “one-size-fits-all” approach, but finding people that have similar interests and backgrounds as you often acts as a springboard into quality networking.”

“A very important point is to maintain consistency in networking. Most industries are connected through a very small-world with little degrees of separation, therefore it is very important to never write someone off if you do not think they can help you directly, as they likely know someone who can be of more help. Bottom line, people are willing to help someone that is willing to take initiative in their recruiting.”

What is your favourite question to ask?

 “This varies on the setting and background of the conversation. Vanilla questions such as, “what make you start in this industry” lack substance and signal a lack of preparation. I like to use the context of the connection to develop questions that lead to quality conversations. It is very important to ensure that the networking experience is a conversation, and not an interview!”

 How do you differentiate yourself to reps?

“I try to have as many in-person connections with reps as possible. This puts a face to your name, rather than being a line item on a resume. I like to try and be as loose as possible, as recruiters are sharks and can smell nervousness from a mile away! Smile, laugh, and enjoy the process as they will likely reciprocate!”

 

Callum O’Hanlon

Queen’s Conference on International Business (QCIB)—Sponsorship Coordinator

Summer Experience: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Dominion Securities

 

What is your approach to networking?

Try to get in a small circle with reps. Being in a large group makes it difficult to make a lasting impression and hard to differentiate yourself.  I found that by staying at the networking session for a longer period of time and waiting for some people to leave is the most effective. You can have some great conversations and even get some tips in the application process.

 Don’t be afraid to walk up to someone. It can be intimidating, but the representatives want to meet you, otherwise they wouldn’t have signed up for the networking session.

What is your favourite question to ask?

 ‘How did you end up working at Company X’ or ‘What was it like going through the application process to get where you are today?’

 How do you differentiate yourself to reps?

 I find that it helps to do some research before and have a few questions ready to go. Most of the time you will spontaneously think of questions, however, if you are looking at a specific role in the company or want to know about something in particular, it really helps to show that you did some research. It will also impress them!

We hope this information offers some insight on getting your foot in the door.  Keep in mind that these are just recommendations, and although they may work for those listed above, they may not work for you.  Networking requires practice, it’s best to try things out, see what works and what doesn’t.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Devon Hawkins

Author Devon Hawkins

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