The Ultimate List of Business Icebreaker Questions
Forging and maintaining connections is key in the business world. Whether you’re interviewing a potential employee, meeting a new client, or hosting the company’s annual retreat, your opening remarks and questions not only set the tone for the entire event but also help get a better sense of the people you hope to (or already) work with. Good icebreaker questions can stimulate a thoughtful answer in even the shyest of people, put them at ease, and provide a window into their personality.
So if you find yourself resorting to dry fallbacks like, “Isn’t this weather something?” you’ll definitely want to check out the following ice breaker questions. Great icebreaker questions are perfect for spurring meaningful discussion and getting things off to a friendly and productive start.
Interview Icebreaker Questions
Interview icebreakers serve a dual purpose. They are a casual segue into the main part of the interview while revealing important information about the candidate’s aptitude for the job.
- Did you find your way here okay? This question tests an interviewee’s ability to prioritize and maintain a professional demeanor. A job candidate who squanders valuable interview time complaining about the subway system or admits that they have a poor sense of direction is already off to a bad start.
- Tell me about yourself. Will the candidate reveal personal details that are more applicable to speed dating than a job interview? Or will they respond by giving the hiring committee important information about their on-the-job experience that is not mentioned in their resume? This icebreaker question lets you gauge a candidate’s preparation skills, initiative, and appropriateness.
- Where are you from originally? This question is an easy one for candidates (or at least it should be!) which helps put them at ease and feel that you are on their team. It can also encourage getting to know each other on a deeper level, especially if you find that you are from the same, or nearby, place.
- Have you been following the Olympics (or other global/national event)? Choosing to lead with a question about a current event, as long as it is not too controversial, is a good way to put candidates at ease. You can also tailor this sort of icebreaker question to breaking industry news in order to see how conversant the interviewee is.
- I just finished [a book]. Have you read any business books recently that would you recommend? This allows you to gain insight as to the interviewee’s taste in business topics as well as gauge how well he or she is able to summarize a book-length subject.
While it may not be conventional, an interview can be a great place to ask more fun ice breaker questions as well. Funny or humorous icebreaker questions can give the interviewer insight into whether or not the interviewee will be a good fit with your workplace culture.
Networking Icebreaker Questions
When you’re meeting an industry leader, or someone you’d like to bring on as a client, the goal with a great icebreaker question is to start a conversation that lets you make an authentic connection without seeming too intrusive or personal. Although observations about the weather or the hotel you’re staying at may be the first things that come to mind, they aren’t conducive to meaningful dialogue, and the last thing you want is your new acquaintance scanning the room for the exit door.
the following icebreaker topics work because they take an interest in the other person yet can easily lead to a sustained discussion. More importantly, the tone is neutral. There’s nothing worse than leading with either negativity or over-familiarity.
- What inspired you to come to [this conference or event]?
- What has been your favorite part of [this conference or event] so far?
- Did you grow up in this area?
- What did you think of that speaker?
- What do you enjoy most about your work?
- I love your [briefcase, necklace, shoes]. Where did you get it?
Team-Building Icebreaker Questions
Retreats are the place where you realign your company’s vision and strategize for the year ahead. Team-building icebreakers at such events should challenge people to think about their core values while at the same time sharing a laugh.
Ice breaker questions for small groups should be as creative and out-of-the-box as possible to encourage playful engagement and put members in a good mood. Bonding over a particularly memorable response, or creating in-jokes based on people’s responses helps to solidify the team, which in turn may make the event more productive.
- What’s the most out-of-character thing you’ve ever done?
- What is your all-time favorite meal, and where would be the ideal setting to enjoy it?
- If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?
- If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
- Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
- Which famous historical figure would you choose to survive the zombie apocalypse with?
- If you were a Real Housewife, what would your tagline be?
- What television series best describes your family growing up?
- If you were to host the ultimate dinner party, which five guests would you invite?
- If you had to go back in time to the Middle Ages, what one invention from the present would you take with you?
- What is the worst ice breaker question you’ve ever received?
While icebreaker questions serve a different purpose in each of these contexts—you wouldn’t necessarily want to ask a job candidate to describe their childhood as a sitcom—the ultimate goal with ice breaker questions for work is to foster authentic communication and build a dialogue that expands outward rather than collapsing after a few tired responses. That first impression—of both parties—should be memorable, so make your icebreaker questions count!
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