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Tips for Making Small Talk during a Job Interview
The purpose of small talk is to get both parties to relax. When somebody walks into a job interview, the tension is usually so high that it becomes difficult for both people in the room to get a good sense of what the other is thinking. Small talk, however, is almost an art. There are dos and don'ts of what is appropriate during a job interview and how you can make small talk work to your advantage.
Stick to safe small talk topics: the weather, sports, or how bad the traffic is. Remember that small talk is a good way for the other person to assess your people skills and how you react under pressure. Others are looking at your body language and communication ability, and what you actually say during the conversation is secondary.
Do not over-praise. Commenting on how beautiful the little boy in the picture frame is or how nice the office looks will only make you sound desperate. If the interviewer raises the issue first, it's okay to comment on such issues, but don't try to break the ice by announcing that you love the painting on the wall.
Jump on any comments made by the other party. If the interviewer says he went to the same college that you did, or if he mentions you have some common interests, take the comment and turn it into a short (2 to 3 sentences) conversation.
Make sure you look interested, even if the topics discussed are not interesting. Small talk is there to break the ice, not to engage you in the type of interesting conversation that you would have with people you know.
Avoid bringing up anything related to the job itself. This includes work hours, salary or even the fact that you know somebody who works in the same company. Also, avoid talking about past jobs and anything that may be interpreted as related to these topics.
Overall Tips & Warnings
There are some topics that are off limits for small talk during a job interview. Besides the obvious ones (religion and politics), you should also be careful when speaking about current issues. Some people may have strong opinions about something broadcast on TV the day before, and if you happen to think the opposite, it can actually play against you.
For more helpful career advice article visit the AgCareers.com newsletter archives at http://www.agcareers.com/info.cfm?task=narticles.