How to Master Interview Small Talk
Interviews are always nerve-wracking. Whether you’ve been on 1,000 or 10, convincing someone to hire you for a role that you really want is scary, overwhelming and a whole host of other emotions.
We bet that you have a solid handle on your work experience and skills and can tell your career story backward and forward. And that’s a great start.
But, what about those moments where you’re walking to the interview room, waiting for someone to join or loitering by the elevator on the way out? Those are part of the interview, too, whether you realize it or not. Interviewers are deciding whether you would be a good fit in all aspects: experience, skills and personality.
So, how do you leave your nerves behind and show your interviewer the real you? Here are a few tips for mastering interview small talk.
Before the Interview:
Do Your Research
While you’re researching the company, remember to do some digging on the people you will be meeting. The recruiter/HR representative will likely give you the names of the people who will be interviewing you. If they don’t, just ask!
First, do a quick Google search and see what pops up. Are they mentioned in the news anywhere? Have they written any articles? Once you’ve exhausted the search engines, find them on LinkedIn to see their work history, where they went to college, and any other tidbits you can glean from their profile. It’s also worth seeing if you have any connections in common. If you do, reach out to that person for any additional knowledge they’re willing to pass along.
All of this is valuable information when you’re wondering how to find common ground in what seems like the longest elevator ride ever.
Now that you have more of an idea of who this person(s) is, focus on what you may have in common. It can be as small as both going to liberal arts schools in the same state or being a part of the same professional organization. Maybe you saw on their LinkedIn that they are big into volunteering with the company, or they could have written a blog post about what it means to be a working parent. Whatever you can relate to, remember that. It will be immensely helpful in breaking the ice.
During the Interview:
Whether you have anything in common or not, come prepared with thoughtful questions. You can use these to fill any awkward silences or at the end of the interview when they inevitably ask if you do have any questions for them. (Side note: Always, always ask at least a few questions at the end of an interview.)
If they were quoted in a piece, mention you read it and ask a follow-up question. Ask about the company and what the person likes most about working there in the X amount of time they’ve been there.
The important thing is to show that you’ve looked them up and didn’t come into the interview blind. It shows you’re not only proactive, but you put in the effort to get to know them better so you could make a good impression.
Listen, Listen, Listen
It can be easy to zone out someone’s answer when you’re nervous and worried about what to say next, but try hard not to do this. You’re missing out on the opportunity to ask a great follow-up question or provide a relatable anecdote that bonds you. Plus you want to seem engaged and personable, not anxious and spacey.
Take a deep breath and listen to what the person’s response is. A brief pause is not going to make or break whether you land the job or not. Instead, it shows that you’re considering their answer and can hold an intelligent conversation. Firing questions off with reckless abandon ruins the flow of conversation and shows your nerves, not to mention it tends to be off-putting.
So, before your next interview consider how you can banish the nerves and walk in confidently, knowing you have not only your experience and skill responses covered, but small talk, too.