Ask questions to connect and learn

Asking a good question is an essential life skill. In fact, in April 2022 when searching “ask questions” in the LinkedIn Learning platform, 827 results appeared. Results included four entire courses on asking questions (Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity, Applied Curiosity, Asking Great Sales Questions, and How to Ask Productive Questions) as well as individual videos within professional courses on communication, professional skills, negotiating, and interviewing. Also not surprising: the top results featured videos about how questions factor into success across a range of professional tasks for engineers including design, project management, proposal-writing, data, coding, managing, and marketing.

With its range of applications, learning to ask a good question is a powerful professional skill. In this setting, we’ll provide a quick overview and then focus your attention on questions as a tool for learning and connecting in these three search tasks: job or internship interviews, attending events, and informational interviews.

📚 Additional Materials

  • General

    the word questions in small tilesThere are many exciting questions to be asked when talking to professionals about what they know, do, and care about. While there are plenty of useful question lists (like this, this, and this), don’t fall into the trap of becoming formulaic and boring! The purpose of a good question is to stimulate interesting conversation and deeper understanding, so be sure to follow your curiosity.

    Consider what you want to know more about and what the person knows. Perhaps it’s their field, the company they work for, their specific role, or maybe where they live. Next, consider common areas for exciting professional conversation. Four are teaching and learning; solving a problem; sharing excitement about interest, and current events. Combine elements of the two sets to create your own list of questions. For example, “What lessons did you and your team discover about working productively off-site instead of in the lab? What practices stayed in place as you returned?”

    Read this fantastic article about asking better questions.

    Use this worksheet to prepare a set of questions for an upcoming event or interview.

  • Stand-Out Internship and Job Interviews
    Two women standing at end of hallway talking during interview
    To develop excellent questions for your interview, there are some good general practices to follow that are outlined well in this LinkedIn Learning video. In addition, you could ask questions that are interesting to professionals already working in a field, organization, or role-based on news, trends, breakthroughs, or a crossover with your own specialization, interests, or expertise. The interviewing part of our site recommends developing 5-10 questions for each interview and offers a reminder that authentic questions are generally more interesting and memorable than the questions lists available on the internet.

    Find out who you’ll interview with (this is a normal and reasonable request to make) and look them up online and on LinkedIn. With this information, you can develop better questions that take into account their background, interests, and role.

    ✅ Talk to professionals to understand the challenges and excitement in their work right now. Connect that to your knowledge or curiosity to formulate a question about the position or team for your interview.

    ✅ Read news relevant to the field, organization, and role you’re interviewing for. Consider how current events may relate to the work of your interviewers, or the position you want to be offered.

    ✅ Develop questions customized for your specific audience and the research you’ve conducted on them, and relevant news they might be interested in.

  • Meaningful Event Attendance

    people sitting in an auditorium listening to a speakerMany underestimate the power of attending professional events as part of their job or internship search. Showing up, in person or virtually, is a very powerful indicator of your commitment, curiosity, and investment. Especially for remote events, asking questions while you are there opens a pathway for individual interaction, and to stand out.

    ✅ Before an event, introduce yourself with a message to a person listed on the registration process or any of the speakers saying that you’re excited to attend and thanking them for hosting. In this note, you can share a few remarks about what you’d like to learn and any questions you have. If it’s a host, you’re invited to suggest that they be shared with the presenter, if helpful.

    ✅ During a virtual event, use the chat to briefly introduce yourself with some biographical information and why you’re attending when you login. Keep your camera on, and participate with your microphone as invited. Take a chance on asking a question instead of keeping silent! If it’s unlocked, use that chat publicly and individually during the event, commenting on people’s remarks, asking questions, or thanking them for sharing. Don’t hesitate to share and request contact information in chat to keep the conversation going beyond the event.

    ✅ During an in-person event, use the same approach as above, just adapted. Engage with presenters and attendees by introducing yourself and asking questions. Utilize research you’ve done prior to the event about other attendees and the event topic(s) to customize your questions, allowing your motivation and curiosity to be on full display.

    ✅ After an event, send messages with questions using the contact information from the event. This might be shared publicly, or details you collected by being proactive. If you missed someone you’d like to chat with, you may contact the event hosts asking whether they could make an introduction. If you don’t receive a response, you can also try to connect on LinkedIn.

    What if you’re attending an event that isn’t for professional peers?

    Something like a career fair, recruiting presentation, or information session? Follow the same advice as for interviews and professional events, and here’s why: the more they can relate to you as a member of their professional community (and not an outsider), the easier it is to imagine hiring you. Tactical questions about the search process like positions available, requirements and preferences, deadlines, etc. aren’t that interesting to discuss, so find your facts as needed, as the final question or two in the conversation, or by follow-up message using the contact information you ask for during your chat.

  • Productive Informational Interviews

    Two men talking on a video callIf you’re planning an informational interview, you will follow the same steps listed above, but naturally, you will prepare more questions and plan a natural arc to the conversation.

    ✅ After generating a list of questions using the materials above, use the TIARA Framework from the book The 2-Hour Job Search to cover important categories and create a natural flow to the conversation.

    ✅ Test your questions with people you know, asking them how they might be adjusted to open up the type of conversation you want to have.

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Organization websites are the primary source for descriptions throughout the site. Many are edited for clarity and concision.

General Interest

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