The small talk you make with your interviewer can be tricky to get right. On the one hand, research suggests that building rapport with your interviewers before getting into the nitty-gritty details of the job can give you an edge over other candidates. But on the other, it’s so easy to to get tripped up and start the interview off on an awkward note.
The secret is to have one to two good open-ended questions that require the person to talk — it lets you show you are a good listener.
What you shouldn’t do is open with anything controversial, highly personal, or clumsy. Stick to safer topics that will help your candidacy, while confidently and comfortably breaking the ice at the beginning of your interview.
Steer clear of talking too much about yourself. You may feel a need to fill the silence by telling your interviewer about every little funny detail about your day, but this may make you seem like too much of a talker. And, just because they go off on a 6-7 minute tangent about their background and work history doesn’t mean you should too. It is ok for them to do this. If you do it it’s called hijacking the interview and it doesn’t’t end well… ever. You have a responsibility to make sure there is an equal exchange of information.
The rule of thumb is, whatever a candidate does in a interview, multiply it by 5 and that’s what they’ll be like at work. So, over-talking can be a real interview killer.
Unless you’re interviewing for a company that’s involved in politics, it’s best to stay as far away as possible from this topic during your interview. Best practice is to, avoid discussing politics, religion, and any other highly charged, controversial topics that can easily turn into heated debates.
While it’s a good idea to do your research on the person you’ll be interviewing with, bringing up personal details could make the conversation awkward. Stick to the information you learn from the person’s LinkedIn profile, not the interviewer’s Facebook or Instagram accounts. Avoid inappropriately trying to bond over the details that only their friends should know so you don’t come off as a creeper.
Of course you are going to need some simple answers to questions you have. From a strategy standpoint you should try to ask conversational questions versus questions that lead to yes or no answers. Asking several yes or no questions creates a lot of jagged starts and stops and breaks the flow of an interview.
While it can be difficult to keep your job opportunities straight when you’re applying and interviewing for several opportunities, there’s no excuse for showing up to an interview without the basic facts. Before your meeting, make sure you know the essentials: Job Description, location, title, and interviewers names. If you have not been given the interviewers names ask for them.
Many candidates who are interviewing for a new job have the mentality that, “I am interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me.” While this may be true there still should be a hierarchy of respect and a tactful approach. If this mentality is too strong it will bleed through in the interview and the candidate will be viewed as a poor culture match who lacks humility. Be professional. Have the mentality that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed and ultimately you will be reporting to this person.