Preparing for an interview means more than just dressing well and sprucing up your resume. You may not realize it, but a big part of the impression you make on others is your ability to interact with them comfortably. A hiring manager or employer will subconsciously like you based on your personality, your physical gestures, and your conversation skills. If you can have a relaxed conversation and project a natural and poised attitude, then the person interviewing you will unconsciously relax and start to enjoy your company. Here 3 examples of casual conversation and small talk you can use in different interview settings:
One of the best things about phone interviews is that you can keep some notes handy while you talk. Jot down a few conversation points in case you need to make small talk during the call. That way, you won’t have to endure any uncomfortable silences while waiting for the interview to start or while waiting for others to join a conference call. If the interviewers are in another city, you could ask how the weather is at their end and mention what the weather is doing at your location. You could also talk about whether or not you’ve ever been to their city, and if so, what you liked most about it. A natural follow-up is to ask if the person on the call has ever visited your city. Other safe topics for conversation include commenting on how terrible the traffic has been lately (from tourists, school starting, etc.) or how well the local sports teams are doing. As you’re making conversation, pause every once in a while to see if the other people have all joined the call yet or if the other person is ready to start the interview. That little bit of conversation you’ve made might just be the icebreaker you need to make everyone on the phone feel comfortable.
In a face-to-face interview, both your conversation and your physical presence will make an immediate impression. Make sure you are wearing an outfit that feels comfortable and fits well so that you can stand up straight and look and feel good. As you shake hands and exchange greetings with the interviewer, you can make small talk about how your commute to the interview location went and how nice the office setting is. Topics like the day’s weather or traffic are also good to keep on hand. But before you launch into a long conversation, keep in mind that most hiring managers have very busy schedules and their time with you is probably limited. So keep the chit-chat light and brief; just enough to connect with the manager and other interviewers on a personal level.
Topics To Avoid
It should go without saying that you should avoid commenting on anything related to religion or politics. You never know how the other person may feel about a given issue, and you could unwittingly put yourself in a very awkward situation. If the other person makes a comment about something that you’re not sure how to respond to or that you’re uncomfortable with, you can always reply with “I haven’t kept up with that,” and then casually change the topic. It’s also best to tread lightly when asking someone about his or her personal life. For example, asking if someone is married can backfire if the person was recently divorced or widowed. So what’s a safe topic to discuss? Anything related to the job or company: How long have you worked here? What do you enjoy about working here? How large is your team? These types of questions will keep you in a safe conversation zone.
Have a friend help you with mock conversation or interview greeting scenarios, and you’ll soon get the hang of making small talk. Contact us to learn more about these and other great interview tips.