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Referral Interview Questions

Questions You Should Ask at a Referral Interview

By Ronald L. Krannich Ph.D.
Courtesy of Impact Publications
Friday, April 11, 2003; 3:54 PM

Often overlooked by job seekers, referral interviews can be the most effective interviews in your job search. These interviews have five goals:

  1. Establish goodwill and understanding.
  2. Provide and collect information.
  3. Receive advice and counsel.
  4. Extend your network.
  5. Be remembered professionally and favorably.
Once you are at the meeting, you should begin by thanking the individual for taking time to meet with you and why you selected him or her. Explain the purpose of your visit and recap your letter's purpose. Reassure the person that you expect neither knowledge of nor responsibility for an appropriate open position at this time. Then state the purpose of your visit. You might, for example, say something like this: "I am currently researching alternatives in which I can use my leadership and technical trouble-shooting skills. In my recent conversation with John Jones, he spoke very highly of you and suggested that you, as a successful manufacturing manager, would be an excellent source of information." Your questions should be arranged in the following format, with two to five questions under each category:
  1. Ice breaker, small talk to build rapport.
  2. Questions about the individual as related to information you're seeking.
  3. Questions about the industry: where it's going, current challenges
  4. Questions about your background summary; how the individual thinks your strengths and achievements can be utilized.
  5. Networking/referral questions
You should develop specific questions for each individual you see. Ask questions that are answerable by the interviewee; keep them within the same sphere of reference. It would be helpful to take a deductive approach, i.e., ask questions that generate a broader response and follow them with more specific ones to key in on ideas of particular interest. Remember, you will be conducting interviews with individuals who possess information critical to your successful market campaign. It is incumbent upon you to draw it to the surface. You should ask the following questions:
  1. Do you think my objective is realistic, achievable, and clearly stated and supported?
  2. Based on my background, which industries or types of companies or organizations would seem most appropriate for me to explore?
  3. Are you aware of companies or industries that are in a growth or transitional position?
  4. Are there any current trends or developments of which I should be aware?
  5. What obstacles might I encounter? How can I overcome them?
  6. Where would you see someone like myself fitting into a company such as yours? (Ask only where appropriate. For instance, you wouldn't ask this of a lawyer if you wanted to be in banking.) You can ask the interviewee's thoughts on these specific areas:
    • Responsibilities
    • Qualifications
    • Problems dealt with
    • Advancement
    • Training
    • Travel
    • Kinds of people who succeed/fail
    • Salary range/starting and long range potential
  7. Are there any professional organizations I should join or publications I might want to read?
  8. If you were me, how would you go about finding a new position?
  9. Who are some people you would recommend I contact for information and advice?

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