5 ways to get to know someone without using cookie-cutter questions

When it comes to networking events, there’s a whole world of topics that you could potentially ask someone about. So why not ask about something appropriate that will let you in on who they really are? Here are a few lighthearted icebreaker questions that you can use when you want to get to know someone.

When it comes to networking events, there’s a whole world of topics that you could potentially ask someone about. So, why not try asking about something that will let you in on who they really are?

Here are a few lighthearted icebreakers that you can use when you want to get to know someone.

Ask them about their personality

An Indeed Career Guide post features the question, “Which season fits your personality best — spring, summer, fall, or winter — and why?”

There are so many ways to answer, but whatever response you get is sure to make you feel like you learned something new and entertaining. Maybe some of their personality will be extra obvious during the rest of your conversation!


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Ask them about their past

David Burkus, an author and Associate Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Oral Roberts University, features questions that you can pose to people — excluding “What do you do?” in the Harvard Business Review.

One of them is, “Where did you grow up?”

“This question dives into others’ backgrounds (but in a much less assertive and loaded way than ‘Where are you from?’),” Burkus writes, “and allows them to answer with simple details from childhood or to engage in their story of how they got to where they are right now and what they’re doing.”

Ask them about their travel aspirations

Aja Frost, a staff writer for HubSpot, features this question in The Muse: “If you could fly anywhere for free, where would you go?”

You might be surprised at what you hear. Everyone has their own idea of paradise, so it could be interesting to find out where they would go if the question of money wasn’t even on the table.

Ask them about their philosophy on life

Ok, so there’s a much more casual way to ask about something like this. Susan M. Heathfield, an HR expert, management and organization development consultant, includes icebreaker questions for meetings in The Balance.

One of Heathfield’s recommendations: “If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would the slogan be? (Examples: ‘Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we all die.’ ‘Bite off more than you can chew.’ ‘There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’).”

This is definitely a playful approach to learning about someone’s outlook on life, but sometimes, that’s what you need to feel comfortable around someone new.

Ask them about their taste in food

Museum Hack, which operates tours and team building exercises at museums, features this icebreaker question (among a list of 100) on the website: “What is your favorite meal to cook and why?”

Everyone has a favorite food. And, while whether or not they know how to cook it is another story, they’re sure to give you an answer that makes it clear that there’s more to life than just work.

After all, work shouldn’t be your “everything.”

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.