The best way to think about a job interview is that it’s just like meeting a new person (who might offer you a job). As long as you are polite and amicable and believe that you’re qualified, there’s nothing else you can do… except master the small talk portion of the interview.
It’s not an official part of the interview structure but it may as well be. At some point, whether it’s walking to an office or in the lift, there will be a window for small talk and you need to be prepared for it.
Here are six top tips to make sure your small talk game is on point for all those long lift rides and silent walks to interview rooms.
1. Remember that you’re always under pressure
As soon as you hand docks with the hand of your interviewer, the trails have commenced. Regardless of what light topic you may be waxing poetic about on the way up to the office, everything you say will contribute to the overall first impression so think before you speak, whatever you do.
2. Speak with your body… but not in a weird way
Body language says more than your riveting opinions on tea’s relationship with sugar so pay attention. Keep your chin up, eyes locked forward and, take your teacher’s sage advice, sit up straight. Positive body positioning can make subtle but lasting impressions and combined with the genuine human connection of small talk, there’s no reason you won’t win over your interviewers favour.
3. Stick to safe topics
This should go without saying but it’d be amazing to see how many people lose job opportunities due to brash view sharing. Stay away from anything too heavy in context – religion, politics and current affairs are generally a big no-no. Stick to your surroundings and get a right balance of authenticity and politeness.
4. Listen but don’t take a backseat
People love hearing about what they want to say, it’s sad but true. If you can crack your interviewer to talk about something they care about – let them run with it. Ask questions and engage to maintain a level of friendliness that a lot of other candidates won’t be able to achieve.
5. Try and avoid steering unnaturally back to the job
Small talk, at its best, can sometimes become time consuming. If this happens, try and direct the conversation somewhere closer to the interview but don’t make the jump straight back the job description. Interviews are as much about making a connection with your potential employer as they are testing your abilities; don’t panic and squander a great conversation for the sake of nothing.
6. If in doubt, small talk about what you see
Mention something about the reception or the office building or your commute – anything to fill the silence. It might be mundane chit-chat but as long as you sound genuine, it’s enough to make you seem ‘nice enough’ which, in the interview game, is a great start!