Job Interviews: Gaining the Edge with Small Talk Skills
By Debra Fine
Candidates are selected for employment for the same 2 reasons no matter what the opportunity. One reason: a problem needs to be solved; a job needs to be filled. The other reason, equally important, is the candidate is the source of good feelings. Two candidates with comparable academic credentials and professional ability will be compared based on the comfort level developed with the interviewer(s). If the decision maker feels ill at ease or uncomfortable during the interview or lunch meeting, walking down the hall or waiting for others to make their way to join the interview, he or she will not choose that candidate. Instead, the candidate that creates those “good feelings” is selected. Conversation and rapport building skills found in Debra Fine’s book The Fine Art of Small Talk are useful in providing that intangible “good feeling” that decision makers are looking for. Candidates can help decision makers feel good during the interview process with the following tips from Debra’s book:
- Use small talk as a picture frame around business conversations. Begin and end with small talk before and after the interview.
- Greet people warmly, give eye contact and smile. Be the first to say hello. Be careful, you might be viewed as a snob if you are not the first to say hello.
- Use the person’s name in conversation. You are more likely to get special treatment by using the person’s name you are talking with. If you don’t know some one’s name, take a moment to ask, and then repeat it. Be sure to pronounce it correctly. And never presume your conversation partner has a nickname. My name is Debra, not Debbie. I don’t feel good when people call me Debbie. It’s a little thing that has big importance.
- Show an interest in others. In response to our high tech environment filled with e-mail and fax broadcasts, we need high touch more than ever. That’s what you create when you show an interest in the person that is interviewing you.
- Be a good listener. That means making eye contact and responding with verbal cues to show you hear what the speaker says. Verbal cues include these phrases: tell me more; what happened first, what happened next, that must have been difficult, and so on. Using them makes interviewers feel actively listened to. Pay attention to the “feel good” factor. And enjoy the success that follows.