“So, how ‘bout the weather this morning?”
Building rapport with your interviewer with small talk can give you an edge over other candidates… but chatting about the weather and how bad the traffic is won’t cut it.
It’s boring and unmemorable. *yawn*
Get prepared with some interesting interview conversation starters, what to talk about (and what to avoid!) with these small talk tips that will make your interviewer warm to you.
Find Common Ground For Small Talk Topics
A few comments about something you have in common can really help boost rapport. There are two ways of getting a little insight on interests you might share.
First, if you know the name of the person who is interviewing you, you can do a little social media research to find out more about them.
Look out for any obvious clues as to what interests they have; do they run, are they into Taekwondo or teach painting classes on the weekend?
Of course, don’t come right out and say “Hey, I saw your Facebook page that you did a mini-triathlon in 2018” #stalkerish.
Instead, find a way to naturally work into the conversation that you’re training for your first triathlon and see if they take the cue.
The second is to look for clues during the interview itself; are there any hints in their office? Is something that stands out and is personal – photos of pets, holiday snaps or perhaps an award on the wall?
You can comment and then ask a question or two about the significance and share a story that relates to the item – maybe you’ve visited the pyramids in Egypt too.
Mention A Unique Hobby Or Interest You Have
Another approach to take is mentioning something interesting you do in your spare time to open the door for some rapport building small talk.
Interviewers are likely to remember a candidate – and be prompted to ask a few questions – with a unique hobby.
If you are an avid baker who enters competitive cupcake baking contests for fun, you’ll be a bit more memorable than someone who says they like to hit the gym in their spare time.
Comment About The Company’s Latest Initiative Or Achievement
Prior to the interview, you should be finding out everything you can about the company, especially the company culture.
Has the company recently supported a community event or won an industry award? Organisations love to promote these kinds of updates on their social media, so it will be easy to find out.
This research can be a great source of small talk questions for interviews and can give you a few points if the conversation becomes a little stilted.
“I saw that the organisation recently sponsored a charity run, great initiative – were you involved in the event?”
The bonus of a comment like this shows you’ve also done your homework and researched the organisation.
You can also comment on something office related as you are walked into the interview room.
Perhaps there are some internal promotional posters up encouraging staff to join the free lunchtime yoga classes or really eye-catching and comment-worthy artwork in the reception area. These are great small talk starters!
Make Industry-Related Small Talk
You can move out of company specifics to chat in general about the industry you’re interviewing in. It’s a great opportunity to turn the spotlight to your interviewer too and give them a chance to open up a little about themselves.
You can ask questions like –
“How long have you been working in this industry?” “What inspired you to get started in this field of work?”
People like talking about themselves, so it’s likely they open up and share a personal anecdote in response to these types of questions.
New To The Area? Ask For A Recommendation
Have you recently relocated from another city or state? This is the perfect lead into small talk with your interviewer. They may already know from your CV and application that you’re new in town and will probably mention it.
You could ask for a recommendation of a great place to eat or if there are any local weekend markets or activities that are worthwhile checking out.
This is also a good opportunity to find some common ground…turns out they love second-hand vintage markets too!
Make Mention Of A Current Event (But Stick With A Light, Non-Controversial Topic)
Commenting on a current event is also a good approach – if you steer clear of controversial – or depressing! – topics.
“Did you hear about that 5 car accident on the motorway this morning? 5 people died. Terrible!”
Not an upbeat small talk icebreaker.
Instead, you could talk about the results of a national study that is making headlines at the moment or ask if they read the article in this morning’s news about XYZ.
You want to keep the topic broad so they can contribute so stick to mainstream events and media. In general, being well versed about current events is a surefire way to avoid talking about the weather.
Small Talk Tips – What To Avoid
It’s important to build rapport with your interviewer but you definitely don’t want to overshare or bring up topics that might offend or make things awkward. That’s a recipe for interview disaster!
Avoid bringing up topics like religion or politics – everyone has their opinion on these subjects but a job interview is absolutely not the time to get into a discussion about them.
You don’t want to be too personal with your questions either. Don’t ask about their relationship status or personal family and health questions.
Oversharing on your side is also a big mistake. Steer clear of saying anything negative about your former workplace or boss and keep family issues or medical problems to yourself too.
It’s important not to monopolise the conversation and practice active listening – the best icebreaker questions for small talk are open-ended that require the other person to share while you listen.
Read your interviewer’s tone and body language too; if they don’t seem interested in a topic, drop it. It’s not so much about the subject matter itself, it’s about showing them you are genuine, friendly, and interested.
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