Networking Call Guide

Last Updated:

March 20, 2024

Table of Contents

Step 1: Get into the Right Mindset

Conducting networking calls is essential to securing a job because:

1. Reading a resume is a crappy way to discern whether you’d be a good employee (because one can only infer so much through words – i.e. GPA is not correlated with teamwork)

2. Employers receive too many applications to review by hand and know that resume screening software isn’t always effective at filtering for the best candidates

3. It’s the soft skills that matter on the job, so your networking performance is a proxy for:


i) Whether you want the job enough that you are willing to go above and beyond to show your interest vs. just throw your resume into the pile

ii) …which you demonstrate by convincing the other person you are interested in the job and know what you are getting yourself in to


i) Whether you are someone they'd like to mentor / work with / be around

ii) …which you demonstrate by showing some commonality with the other person (since people like others who are similar to them)

Communication / teamwork

i) Whether you can work with others and be professional in front of clients

ii) …which you demonstrate by asking nuanced questions and having a smooth-flowing conversation (rather than an interrogation)

Therefore, your sole objectives with networking calls are to:

  1. Demonstrate you have the above characteristics
  2. Build enough of a personal connection with someone (who has a say in who gets an interview) that you are someone they want to have on their team
  3. Convince the firm to circumvent the resume software and just give you an interview

The goal of the call is not to ask for a job (and hardly to learn about the company because most info is available online). It’s to build a relationship with the other person so they either refer you directly or introduce you to someone who has a say in hiring you.

Step 2: Before the Call

(1) LinkedIn stalk the person you will be speaking with to understand what career decisions they made (so you can ask about them) and what commonalities they have with you (so you can use them to build rapport)

  • Did they go to the same school? Same major? Same organizations?
  • Did they work somewhere else prior to their current job?
  • Saying “I noticed that…” is not really awkward these days anymore because everyone is so familiar with LinkedIn stalking (that is, after all, what it is for) 

(2) Search the industry and firm on Google and https://news.google.com/ to find recent developments in the industry, firm, and role that intersect with your background / interests

  • Are there general industry developments that excite you? Why?
  • “Not only have I shopped at Kroger for as long as I can remember, but I’ve also been following your ClickList initiative – and would love to be a part of the strategy”
  • Did the company recently launch a new strategy that excites you? Why?
  • “I’ve been following Capital One ever since its entry into the e-commerce segment, and got especially excited about its acquisition of Paribus in last year”
  • Does the role offer some characteristics that fit your background, skills, and goals? Why?
  • “Having been in sales and software development, the IBM Product Manager role makes sense for me since it blends customer discovery with product development”

(3) Be ready to answer some common questions

  • “Tell me about yourself”
  • When someone asks this they are not asking for a monologue of your life’s story. They are trying to understand how background fits with your interest in their firm.
  • Good: “I’ve always been someone who likes to think about the intersection of software engineering and product development. 
  • Bad: “My name is Richard and I am a double major in History and Literature at UCLA. I was born in China and moved to New Jersey when I was 6-years old. In my freshman year, I studied abroad in France and interned with War Child… in my spare time I enjoy reading and cooking.”
  • “Why are you interested in our firm?”
  • If you introduced yourself (well) they should not have to ask this question
  • If not, be prepared to give one “hard” reason (something that is objectively true about the company that is different from others - find this on the company website) and one “soft” reason (something about the culture and people)
  • Hard reason: “BCG’s diamond structure”, “Enterprise Holdings’ focus on building interdisciplinary leaders”, “Mayor Walsh’s education agenda”
  • Soft reason: “Jessie could not stop raving about how the quality of mentors shoes’ found in the Consumer Insights group”
  • “Why are you interested in [this industry] given your [irrelevant background]”?
  • This question is a sign that the other person is worried you don’t know what you are signing up for and may quit after seeing the real job up close
  • Share the shortcomings of your prior experiences, but don’t be negative
  • Spin your experiences in a way that makes it seem like you’ve done the job before
  • Good: “Although biology doesn’t seem to jive with Enterprise Sales, it was the sales side of my work that excited me most: I wrote the proposal that won our lab a $5M grant and sold 2 research ideas to my PI. Moving forward, I would love to double down on the sales side and ease up on the nitty-gritty research side.”
  • Bad: “I would like to pursue a career in Enterprise Sales because I didn’t find biology research interesting or fast pace enough.” (this is bad because every job has its dull parts, and you don’t want to come off as being picky)
  • “What other companies are you looking at?”
  • This is a question to gauge whether you are applying to every job online (and don’t care about the job you are inquiring about) or if you are serious about the job that the firm should spend more time on you.
  • Mention only a narrow list of firms / jobs that offer similar characteristics to what you are inquiring about, and make sure to spin your story back to why the company you are asking about is superior. If you list totally unrelated jobs the other person will start getting worried that you don’t actually have direction.
  • Good: “In addition to the Sales Development Rep position at Hubspot I am also looking at SDR roles at other enterprise software firms like Salesforce, but no other place offers the same level of new rep training as Hubspot, so if given the choice I could definitely see myself at Hubspot.”
  • Good: “In addition to the Sales Development Rep position at Hubspot I am also considering consulting and marketing. I could also go back to grad school.”

Step 3: During the Call

(1) Find a completely quiet place with good reception to take the call

  • Taking the call from a place with background noise makes you seem unprofessional

(2) Consider taking the call via your headphones so you free up a hand to mute your mic

  • Background noise, again, sounds unprofessional (especially if you are typing or taking notes) – consider muting your mic whenever you are not speaking

(3) Be right on time – not a minute late

  • If you are dialing in to a conference line, join right on time or one minute early
  • If you are calling the other person, get their phone ringing right on the dot
  • This might be nit-picky, but this punctuality stuff really adds up in terms of first impressions because most people are a few mins late

(4) Open the call succinctly and confidently

  • Conference line: “Hi XX, Jane on the line.” *wait for them to speak*
  • Calling the other person: “Hi Steve, this is Jane calling. How are you?” [person responds] “Is this still a good time to chat? / “I wasn’t planning to take up any more than 20 minutes of your time; does this still work with your schedule?
  • Receiving the call: “Hello, Jane speaking.” / “Hi Steve” (go straight for the name)

(5) Convince the other person that they are the perfect person to talk to get them interested

  • If a cold outreach: “Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat. Given that you were also a Middle Eastern Studies major at FSU and also worked in a non-profit before Prudential you seem like the perfect person to talk to.”
  • If referred via a connection: “Really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences with me. Giovanni and I are actually fraternity brothers at UNC, and he said that you’d be the perfect person to talk to about Nieman Marcus given that you were once apparently, like me, deciding between retail operations and marketing.”
  • If referred via a junior employee (from another call): “I spoke with Steve a few days ago about the Analyst role and walked away excited because it seems like a great combination of client engagement and analytics. I am now considering applying, but wanted to first hear about the role from a manager’s perspective.”
  • If no commonality: “Thanks so much for your willingness to chat. I’ve been doing some research into the Pfizer Rotational program, but have not yet had a chance to hear from someone who has gone through it, so really appreciate you making yourself available.”
  • The logic: People are busy, so you don’t want them to feel like you are wasting their time. The more that you can stroke their egos / they can see this as a fun break from their day, the more they will enjoy the talk – and the more they will like you enough to refer you.

(6) Ask open-ended questions that encourage the answerer to reflect on their own professional experiences and that prompt them to talk about themselves

  • Good (because these are open-ended and encourage conversation): 
  • “I noticed that you also studied History and interned in DC prior to joining Hilton; what compelled you to make such a pivot?”
  • “What were your expectations coming into this role and to what extent has the role played in the way you had imagined?”
  • “How did you go about making the decision to choose Oracle over other firms and what ultimately encouraged you to stay?”
  • Towards managers: 
  • “Steve shared a bit about this job’s day-to-day, but could you tell me more about how the work fits in more broadly with the Digital Initiative?” 
  • “What would you say are the characteristics and competencies that separate the best Analysts from the rest?”
  • Bad (because these are things you can Google / that don’t require this person to answer):
  • “What types of job openings are available in Raleigh, NC location?”
  • “How much travel is there this job?”
  • “What is a typical day like in your job?”
  • The logic: (1) Open-ended questions give you a chance to respond and treat the call like a tennis match where each person hits the ball back to the other. (2) Relationships are more easily built via experience sharing than the mere transfer of facts. (3) Most factual details can be found on Google, so asking them may risk others seeing you as asking the same, generic questions to everyone just to look smart. (4) Many people don’t actually like their jobs, so focusing too much on facts only forces the other person to put up a façade

(7) Build off of / relate to what the other person said to encourage a back-and-forth dialog, rather than just keep powering through a rigid list of questions like an interrogation

  • Them: “I was interested in policy for a long time, but found the Congressional office a bit too slow. I was also in the back room not interacting with people much, so applied to the Properties Analyst role because it includes a good amount of customer interaction. I was also interested in hospitality so decided to give it a shot.”
  • You: “Interesting! I considered interning in DC, but have had a few people caution me about similar issues. I’ve also worked in retail for the past 3 years through my parent’s business and really enjoyed the face-to-face interactions with customers. What were your expectations coming in and to what extent did reality align with those expectations?
  • Logic: The call is a chance for the other person to like you enough to see you like a fellow colleague. The information exchanged really doesn’t matter because most job-specific questions you can probably find online, so treat this as a first date 😊

(8) Keep the call conversational and light

  • You can occasionally unmute the mic to say “mmm hmmm” or to chuckle to acknowledge that you are listening (and smile so the tone of voice sounds authentic)
  • Speak slowly (mirror the other person’s pace), show vocal variety (so you aren’t monotone), pause whenever you want to say “umm”, and enunciate every word (so you aren’t slurring or mumbling) – this all makes you sound more professional and confident
  • Pay attention to openings in the conversation for you to chime in (a common issue is incorrectly assessing when the other person is done, so people talk over each other; if unsure, count half a second after the other person seems done before opening your mouth)

(9) 5 minutes before the end of your allotted time, ask for tips on how to navigate the process or for a referral to another team member, depending on how well the call went

  • If you don’t think the person is willing to help much: “Interesting! Based on how you are describing the role it definitely seems like a logical next step for me given that it seems like the perfect mix of analytical work and client interaction. With the deadline coming up, do you have any guidance on how I can best stand out in the application process?”
  • If you are trying to build more allies or if you want another shot: “You mentioned earlier that the Client Success group has been growing a lot and seems to align well with my background. Any chance you might have someone on the team you could connect me to? I’d love to learn more about the role and how to best put my foot forward in the process.”
  • If you feel like you’re a shoo-in: “This has been extremely helpful, thanks so much for taking the time, Scott. This has given me a great picture of the job itself. I’d love to also hear a manager’s perspective on this role and what makes a successful Marketing Analyst. Any chance you could connect me for a 15-minute chat with a manager here?”
  • If you know that the company has a referral program: “I was pretty interested in the role coming into this talk, but this chat has only made me that much more excited. Are you by chance in touch with the recruiting team and might be able to pass on my name?”
  • If you are talking to a manager: “I notice we’re nearing the end of our allotted time and I don’t want to keep you long. From our conversation and my conversation with Steve, it sounds like this job is a great fit because of X, so I’ll work on submitting my application in the coming few days. Any advice on how to increase my chances of getting seen?”

(10) Thank the other person for their time and wrap up any loose ends

  • If there are no immediate follow-ups: Steve, thanks again for your thoughtfulness – I really do appreciate it. After this call I am definitely looking forward to submitting an application, so, if all goes well, hopefully, we’ll have a chance to work together.”
  • If you are being introduced to someone else: “Thanks so much, Steve – I really appreciate it. Would it be helpful for me to write a quick blurb to help you with the intro, or are you all set?”
  • If you know that the company has a referral program: “Thanks so much, Steve. Are there any details or materials I should share to help you with the referral process?”