Some people find small talk awkward, but it’s something you need to prepare for when it comes to interviewing. In fact, a study has found that candidates that build a rapport with interviewers through small talk are more likely to get the job.
Furthermore, some interviewers use small talk to get a feel for how candidates will act in the workplace and asses their skills. It’s one way of assessing your personality, as well as your communication skills, so it’s important that you’re fully prepared to handle small talk at an interview and where possible, turn it to your advantage!
Interview tips for small talk
Don’t let the interviewer do all the work. Prepare a couple of small talk questions yourself. Simple ones such as ‘how is your day going?’, or ‘these are nice offices’ are good opening lines, and can even lead to the interviewer revealing some useful information such as how many people are expected for the interview or what it’s like working there.
Some interview questions associated with small talk, such as ‘how did you find the travel here?’ are a deliberate attempt by interviewers to gauge how you present yourself. The trick here is not to give too much, or too little information. Be positive, be polite and avoid politics or religion. You want to give the impression that you’re happy to be there, so don’t moan about the traffic.
Stay away from clichés such as the weather. You want to try to guide the interaction towards finding out more information about the job or what it’s like to work at the company. Look around you and try to find something about the company, the building or the office layout that you can comment on.
Keep an eye on body language
Be aware of your body language as while you might be saying all the right things, your demeanour could give the impression that you’re bored or not interested in what the interviewer is saying. Eye contact and facial expressions, in particular, are important to convey warmth and friendliness.
Being nervous is understandable but if you can be outgoing and convey confidence, you could gain bonus points. Sit up straight, lean forward and smile to show that you’re interested and engaged in the conversation.
These are all things you can practice at home in front of the mirror when preparing for an interview. Changes in tone, cadence and pitch can influence interviewers too, so try different speaking styles adjusting tone and speed until you’re comfortable with your articulation. Some candidates have a tendency to speed up when they’re nervous – make sure this isn’t you.
Small talk your way to success
If you know who will be interviewing you, it doesn’t hurt to see if you can find them on social media such as LinkedIn or research their background. You might be able to discover a shared interest. Just don’t make them aware that you’ve been checking up on them, so be sure to view in ‘private mode’ if you’re using LinkedIn.
Instead, gently guide the conversation towards topics. It’s also at this stage where your research on the company should come in useful.
Done right, small talk can help you build rapport with the interviewer and in a split decision between you and another candidate, could be enough to give you the edge!
To find your next interview, start with a job search on Zoek.
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