Interview Skills 101: The Importance of Small Talk

(As originally published in the Ticker, 9/22/2014)

By Anum Afzaal – Peer for Career

Many of us feel nervous at the prospect of speaking to someone we have never met before, especially an interviewer. This anxiety can often make it difficult for us to have an effective conversation, negatively affecting our first impression given to the interviewer. To mitigate these worries, we can use the art of small talk.

Small talk is more important than we may think, especially during interviews. On one hand, if utilized correctly, it can positively affect our first impression. It’s one of the easiest ways to alleviate anxiety and calm our nerves at the beginning of an interview.

Small talk does not have to be complicated. It’s best to keep it simple by asking about the interviewer’s day, commute, or weekend. The interviewer knows we are there for a specific purpose, but being able to make friendly conversation at the start of the interview demonstrates that we have good social skills and can communicate effectively.

On the other hand, if utilized incorrectly, small talk can also negatively impact our initial impression given to the interviewer. It’s important to keep the conversation short and light, while avoiding the discussion of controversial or personal topics.

Finally, remember that the person across the interview table is just that, a person! Engaging them in light conversation will not only perk up their mood and allow them to think of us in a positive light, but also reduce any anxieties we may have felt at the start of the interview.