Small Talk is BIG Talk

You may be the most personable person, yet freeze when you walk into your interview.
Many people rehearse the answers to questions they may be asked during the interview process, they iron their clothes, they make sure to have their best foot forward. However, what many people do not prepare for is the simplest thing – small talk.

Small talk can be a deal breaker when it comes down to you and another candidate. You may have 99% of the same skill set and outlook, but what will be the deciding factor is who is better at conveying their attitude, strengths, and people skills. Many people within IT tend to be on the introverted side of the personality spectrum. By practicing and being prepared for “big small talk” during an interview, this can help assure the job is yours’. Some people are naturals at small talk, to others, it is nearly impossible to keep a tiny conversation going. I have a few tips as to how everyone can master the big art of small talk.

Proper body language is important when it comes to putting your professional self out there. From the moment you walk through the door for your interview, eye contact should be kept. By making eye contact, and not shying away from those interviewing you, it displays that you are actively engaged in the conversation, and you are confident in your role. Using eye contact to keep the attention of your interviewer will cause he or she to look up from their own notes more often and take note of your non-verbal participation (eye contact, smiles, nodding, etc.).

Another way to stay engaged is to actively listen to the interviewer. A lot of people worry about small talk because they often do not know what to say back. The key is to repeat what you have just heard. For example, if the interviewer says, “I have been working here for 23 years,” you can repeat back, “Woah! 23 years?” This shows both attentiveness, interest, and it causes less stress upon you to find the right words to say. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying, rather than concentrating on the words you will say.

Another tip for mastering small talk is to use the FORD method. Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. We refer to these inquiries as Icebreakers. This “breaks the ice” during small talk. For example, “I am going home to Pittsburgh for the weekend to visit with family, where are you from?”

Another easy way to generate small talk is the classic reference to your surroundings. When you’re in an elevator with a stranger what tends to be the go-to topic? You guessed it! The weather! Referring to what is around you establishes common ground. If you are struggling for words to say, reference something that is easily commented on. This can be a conversation about the weather, the new office space, or sports just to name a few.

In conclusion, it is important to put yourself out there when entering an interview. Be yourself, but utilize these 4 tips to master the art of small talk. Although it is casual, and not the reason you are being evaluated, when it comes down to it, the conversation plays the largest role in deciding if you are or are not the perfect candidate.

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