Great questions to ask alumni

We’ll let you in on a little secret: it almost doesn’t matter WHAT you ask. The alumni in your community have signed up to help. The bar is very low here: they are LOOKING for reasons to engage.

So if you don’t screw it up, your question will open the door to a potential mentoring relationship that could be incredibly rewarding for years to come. That’s why you’ll hear us often call the question a Trojan Horse: it’s your way in.

What are good questions? There are a TON of resources on this that you can Google. To make it super easy for you, we have compiled a list of our favorites. In our experience helping students connect with alumni, these questions get solid responses.

  • How did your experience help you land your first job? What was most impactful: the coursework, internships, student clubs?
  • If you were hiring new graduates from our institution, what qualifications, experiences, and/or internships would you look for?
  • What have been the biggest changes in your field over the last five years? What changes do you see in the future?
  • What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?
  • Which opportunities offer the most ability to learn a great deal?
  • What professional journals, books, newspapers or publications do you read to keep up with the industry and your field? What professional associations do you recommend?
  • What do you wish someone had mentioned to you when you started your career? What surprised you the most?
  • What strategies would you be using if you were in a job search for a position in this field?
  • I am looking for feedback on my resume and LinkedIn profile before I begin applying for an internship / job. Would you have a few minutes to take a look?
  • What types of questions should I expect when interviewing for a job in this field?
  • What made you choose this employer?
  • What kinds of projects do new hires typically work on in this field? Where are the biggest learning opportunities?
  • If you could go back in time to change one thing about your experience at [institution], what would you choose and why?

What’s important is that the “ask” is simple: easy to understand and easy to answer. Remember: your goal is to get a foot in the door and build a relationship. It’s just like dating – get to know the other person before asking for a bigger commitment. Don’t ask something complex that may take 30 minutes to reply to.

Additional Reading