You might dismiss small talk as a minor part of the application process, but a lack of small talk could be a deal-breaker when you are at a job interview and the hiring manager isn’t totally convinced you’re right for the gig, or they have you up against someone with similar qualifications who also happens to be good at small talk.
Simply put, employers want to hire individuals who are enjoyable be around. Even if you have a sunny disposition and you are a ‘people person’ in casual settings, if you tend to be introverted in a pressured situation, expressing your personality to one or more complete strangers can be like trying to push a square peg into a round hole.
Small talk may come naturally for some, but for the rest of us, it is a skill that needs to be worked on regularly. If small talk doesn’t come naturally to you, consider the following suggestions.
Listen and React
Trying to come up with the right things to say at the right time is a lot of pressure. An easier approach is to listen to what the other person is saying and react accordingly. So, if your interviewer asks, “How was your drive in?” you can respond by talking about the route you took or the traffic.
This strategy can allow you to pay attention to what is being said, rather than getting caught up in your own head attempting to think of what to say next. The closer you listen, the more material you’ll have to feed back into the conversation.
Use Eye Contact and Body Language
When an actor standing on stage feels nervous, there’s a trick they can use to project confidence – stand near the front of the stage. This makes the actor seem confident to the audience, and hopefully the actor can they internalize that confidence.
An interviewee can use a similar tactic by projecting confidence through eye contact and body language. If you keep your eyes fixed on the ‘triangle’ formed by the interviewer’s eyes and mouth, it gives them a feeling of connectedness and takes the pressure off you to make small talk. If you lean forward and avoid crossing your arms and legs, you can increase this sense of engagement and lower the pressure you put on yourself.
Use Classic Ice Breakers
Sure, using an ice breaker can be painfully cliched, but most people prefer to respond to them than sit there in awkward silence. Also, icebreakers often open up a larger conversation.
Many classic ice breakers involve settings such as the place you’re located, the weather or the time of day. If you’ve been given an opening to talk about more personal things, like family or hobbies, go ahead and take it. Just don’t get too personal if you suspect it won’t be well-received.
Take the Pressure Off With Best-Fit Opportunities
When job seekers work with ZDA, they get connect to best-fit opportunities at great companies – which sets the stage for natural, free-flowing interview conversations. Please contact us today to find out how we can connect you to a great employer.