Networking and making useful contacts is part and parcel of being a job seeker, and recruiter. Whether your aim is to source quality candidates or to bag yourself a top job, your networking skills will almost certainly be put to the test!
Whilst you may have a spiel practiced to perfection, you could be caught off guard with a great networking opportunity when you least expect it. In this situation, it is imperative that you do not panic and revert to an unrehearsed conversation starter. Oftentimes, it is these impromptu networking moments which count the most, and yet usually end in disaster due to inappropriate topics and conversation killers.
Here are some of the most obvious conversation killers to avoid when networking with a potentially ‘useful’ contact:
#1 How is your job going at XXX company?
Never assume the individual is still employed there; you never know, they may have left on bad terms and you reminding them of their time there could cut the conversation short. Instead of asking this, you can ask them how work is going – leaving the topic more general and open.
#2 Did you enjoy the cinema last night?
Ok, so you want to get on more friendly and informal terms with the individual, but stating that you saw them at the cinema last night may make them think you are stalking them! Try to keep informal conversations more general; the weather or the recent sports game is often a ‘safe’ topic.
#3 How’s Shirley and the kids?
Never ever ask this question unless you know the individual very well; in which case it is unlikely you will be ‘networking’ as such. Shirley could have left him and the kids may no longer speak to him, so asking personal questions is simply a recipe for disaster.
#4 Did you see the political broadcasts? Which party did you vote for?
Whilst asking about a person’s interest in politics is treading a find line, asking them outright who they voted for is definitely crossing the line. When networking, the last thing you want to discuss is politics, and for that matter, stay away from topics on religion and finances too.
#5 Where did you go to University?
A touchy subject, especially if the person did not attend college or university. When it comes to education, people can be very judgmental, competitive and defensive. If the individual did attend higher education, you may open yourself up to unnecessary competitiveness– if your school was more reputable than theirs, the conversation is sure to head downhill.