Small Talk Can Be a Big Deal: Especially During the Holidays

Three Tips to Help Improve Your Small Talk Skills

“So, what did you think about the election?” While this may be a hot topic on social media, at the dinner table and around the water cooler, is this type of small talk acceptable on a job interview? While research has shown that some small talk with your interviewer prior to jumping into the formal questions can help you develop a rapport and give you an advantage over some candidates, things can just as easily go bad and ruin your chances before you get the opportunity to sell yourself. Based on a study led by researchers at Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the impression that you make during the first few minutes of “small talk” on an interview significantly influences your interviewer’s perception of you and can ultimately determine whether or not you get hired.

The definition of “small talk” as found in Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary is “informal, friendly conversation about unimportant topics.” It is a social skill that you use when you meet new people and a key business skill applied in many work situations. Employers view small talk as a “soft skill” which is an attribute that enables someone to interact effectively with people and is vital to furthering your career.

While some people are comfortable with making small talk, others struggle. If you are the latter, there are things that you can do to improve your skill set. In a recent article, The One Skill You Need to Master to Get Ahead At Work, the author outlined the following tips that may help you master the art of small talk:

Small Talk Improvement Tip #1

  • Start Simple – Don’t put pressure on yourself. Less pressure leads to more organic small talk. Small talk is more about finding a connection then about showcasing knowledge.

Small Talk Improvement Tip #2

  • Practice in Low-Stress Situations – There is benefit to practicing the art of small talk while in everyday situations and have nothing on the line. For example, if you receive a delivery at your office, make some chitchat with the delivery person. “Have things been backed up due to the recent hurricane?” Make sure you listen to their response and ask follow-up questions. This helps you also practice good listening skills.

Small Talk Improvement Tip #3

  • Have a Purpose – Be positive and thoughtful. Showcase your curiosity for the other person. This gives the impression that you care about what they are saying and helps build rapport. Start with a topic that will ultimately lead to conversation that you are comfortable with such as your hobby, something you have done or plan to do in the near future.

If you are trying to advance your career and could use practice in this area, reach out to your AthLife Advisor. They can help walk you through the steps outlined above and also do some mock interviewing to help you further prepare. Before you know it, you will be a master at the art of “small talk!”