Small talk is a normal part of our daily lives. Sometimes we make small talk because we’re bored, like when we discuss the silly tabloid magazine headlines with the person next to us in line at the grocery store. Other times we use small talk to be social or to fill a conversation gap, like when there are just two people in the break room at lunch.
Another excellent and important – but little known – use for small talk is the job interview process.
A Good Fit
Many different books and articles about finding a job will tell you that the resume – your job qualifications and education – gets you the interview, but it won’t get you the job. If it did they wouldn’t need to speak with you in person at all.
No, the hiring managers want to meet each candidate in person because they want to know if they will LIKE working with you or if you are not a “good fit” for their organization. Let’s face it, no company wants to accidentally hire an arrogant jerk or a spoiled brat, so they hold interviews to meet all the candidates.
Reassure Them with Small Talk
So how do you let the hiring managers know that you are one of the best candidates? Use your great small talk abilities to show you are a normal, open, kind person, someone that the interviewers would be comfortable having in their organization.
Some easy topics to get started:
- The weather – still always works, however, you should avoid any mention of Global Warming – at all.
- Traffic conditions – everyone has an opinion and a story, but remember to do more listening than talking and if the interviewer loves to talk about traffic you may need to “steer” the topic back to the reason you’re there.
- Coffee – If they offer you coffee you can certainly talk about it beans, roasts, coffee shops, etc., but especially if it comes from one of those new K-cup machines which are everywhere now and make everything from hot cocoa to soup. However, with coffee it’s probably best to avoid talking about growing coffee since that’s layered in environmental and political issues.
Some deeper topics:
- Your interviewer’s alma mater – Since you’ll usually know the name of your interviewer ahead of time you should be able to look up him or her on LinkedIn. You could say “I noticed on your profile on LinkedIn that you attended Syracuse University. I understand that Syracuse is located in a beautiful part of New York State. What was that like?”
- Your interviewer’s past work history – If you don’t want to talk about your interviewer’s school you could say “I noticed on LinkedIn that you worked in Champagne, Illinois in the 1990s. That’s some wide open farm land in that region. I’ve been through there are many times being from Indiana myself.”
- Photos on the Wall – Most photos on office walls won’t be too personal if you can see them, or they won’t mind if you talk about them, but still, be smart. Pick the one that looks like the interviewer and a group of guys in front of the Great Wall of China and not him and his girlfriend in Paris.
Interview Small Talk Pitfalls to Avoid
- Being fake or way too excited by small talk
- Looking bored
- Talking too much, not listening enough
- Effective communicators get jobs
- Small talk is a very good way to prove you know how to communicate