You’ve heard of the power of networking. Perhaps you’ve sent emails asking to hop on a call to learn about someone’s experience in a role or company. They’ve said yes to a call and now the true work begins — the call itself — how you conduct yourself, what questions you ask, and (if applicable) how to get a referral.
They’re taking time out of their day to speak with you. Thank them for their time. This always helps calls get started on the right foot.
Start with a few natural conversation starters such as “where are you calling from?”. It can be easy to let the small talk go on for too long. After a few minutes, if you identify a natural break, jump into why you want to speak to them with “I can kick things off with a quick intro and tell you more about why I reached out.”
You likely shared a bit about yourself in your email. Use this time to refresh their memory on who you are and why you reached out. This should be around 60 seconds — start with where you are today and some of your past experiences. Chronological order is easiest to follow.
You’re excited about the role and opportunity to connect and learn from them. Show that. Your enthusiasm can be infectious and motivate them to help you.
You likely know a bit about their role from their LinkedIn, or another source. However, leverage this as an opportunity to hear about their story from their own words.
This might be one of the most generic networking questions ever, and realistically, most people’s day-to-day change. However, it’s still insightful to understand the various areas where someone focuses their time to help you understand if that’s what you want to spend your time doing.
For product this might be communication and stakeholder management. For engineering roles this might be experience using certain technologies and frameworks. Getting a sense of which skills are valued in a role allows you to reflect on whether these are strengths or weaknesses for you, and which skills to further develop.
This answer will change by function, person and company, but will give you insight into what the high priority focus areas of the role will be.
Similar to asking them about their path to their current position, this helps you curate resources to prepare for a jump. They may recommend podcasts or books to learn more about the space, or resources to prepare for a technical interview or product case study.
If you made a good impression, leverage their network to speak with others that can give you additional insight or guidance.
If the intention of your call is to get a referral or introduction to a specific company, don’t be shy in asking. At this point in the call, you should have a sense of whether you made a good enough impression for them to refer you. Pro tip: If the person knows the recruiter in charge, ask to be directly connected.
You’re asking for their help, so clearly organize what the next steps look like and follow up immediately with an email. If you asked for a referral, offer to send your resume and a blurb on why you’d be a good fit for the role. If you asked for additional contacts, thank them in advance in your follow up email. Help them, help you.
You’re asking them for their time and help with little in return (at least likely not in the short term). Saying thank you always makes someone more motivated to help you.
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