Mastering the Art of Small Talk in a Job Interview
There it is, that jittery feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a job interview is fast approaching. Yes, there’s a lot to be nervous about as you lie in bed thinking about it. Getting lost or stuck in traffic. Have you gone over the answers you’ve prepared to those pesky interview questions you might get? Did you do enough research on the company? Did you choose the right interview outfit, and will your LinkedIn stalking of the hiring manager pay off?
With all of those things to worry about, there is one particular aspect most job seekers neglect to think about – the art of small talk.
It’s always part of any job interview but rarely planned for because it’s something we take for granted. But filling the silence during a shared walk to the conference room can mean as much as what you share during the actual interview. So, you need to be prepared to engage them in some professional, and hopefully impressive, small talk.
Do you know how to leverage this seemingly insignificant chat to your advantage? Do you know how to use it to make an even better impression on your interviewer?
Let’s take a closer look at the art of small talk:
Don’t use Clichés: Yes, talking about the weather is a good fall back but it definitely doesn’t make an impact or make you memorable. Do yourself a favor and try to skip clichés and generalities because every other candidate is going to use them and you don’t want to be “just another candidate,” unless you’re interviewing for a role as the weather person!
Find a Common Bond: Remember all that stalking you did on LinkedIn? Did you see any common interests you share? Are they a runner training for a marathon? If you’re a runner, this is a great opportunity to let them know. Do they rescue animals? If you’re a fellow dog lover, add that to your conversation. If you share an alma mater, by all means use that as a topic for small talk because it forms an instant connection.
Now, you don’t want to say things that will make you look like a creeper, “Hey, I saw your post from three years ago that says you ran in the New York marathon.” Instead, bring it up as naturally as possible when they ask the “How are you?” question. “I’m doing great, thank you! I began my morning with a run. I’m training for an upcoming half marathon.” If your interviewer takes the bait, you’ll have an interesting conversation about something you’re both passionate about.
Talk about Something Related to the Company: You’re there to demonstrate you’d be a great fit for the company so show them you have an interest in what’s going on in the organization. While you’re waiting, watch for conversation starter clues. Like the office chili competition, you overheard the receptionist talking about to another coworker. Or, talk about the recent award you saw hanging on the wall that the company received.
These little insights into the company can provide a great and relevant topic of small talk with your interviewer so don’t be afraid to use them.
Ask open ended questions: Let’s face it, small talk can be awkward but when you’re feeling panicky, this little tactic can really help. Responding with an open-ended question to their, “How are you?” question will help shift the spotlight off of you. For instance, you can say, “I’m doing great, thank you. How about you? Did you work on anything interesting this morning?”
When you think about preparing for small talk, it can seem a little strange, but when every second in a job interview is an opportunity to make a good impression – make the time to prepare! Instead of wasting time talking about the weather, take these tips and use them as an advantage over the other job candidates.