It is inevitable that you will be expected to make some small talk before your job interview. There is a chance a receptionist will chat with you as you sit in the waiting room. Furthermore, the actual interviewer(s) will also make conversation with non-controversial subjects. If you need to start small talk, here are four safe topics for you.
In the Lower Mainland, we have a mixture of weather and we talk about it a lot. The trick to good weather small talk, however, is to keep positive. We have a lot of rain. Rain can be depressing. On the other hand, rain can feel refreshing and clean. How you talk about it is your choice. Comments like, “Wow, the rain is really coming down out there” are useful because they are neutral and offer a newsy quality. Or, “we sure have had a lot of rain recently” also seems neutral, as long as you deliver it with a smile. Just try to keep the attitude that weather is something to be experienced, rather than endured.
Commuting offers a wealth of small talk discussions. SkyTrain delays, traffic jams on any of the bridges, special events that close streets: these are all full of small talk potential. Just watch your tone. Comments like, “With all this snow, the Sky Train really got busy this morning” are observances without being negative. Of course, try to smile while saying this. Similarly, “It seems like the snow kept a lot of people at home today: the streets were so quiet!” Traffic is normally a topic that arises when an employer asks, “Did you have any trouble getting here? Whatever your answer, keep positive. “The bridges were really busy: I’m so glad I left home a little early.”
Something on a receptionist’s/employer’s desk
Sometimes people place personal items on their desks. If you see something that interests you, ask about it. For instance, a trophy with a golfer on top might suggest he or she enjoys golf. If you do too, you might say, “I see you have a golf trophy; do you play golf?” If the receptionist isn’t too busy, he/she might talk a little about it. Don’t expect a long conversation. But it can set a tone that shows you as a friendly, interested person. Hopefully, you’ll be working alongside that receptionist in the future; get to know him/her a little now.
Sometimes you’ll be offered a beverage while waiting for your interview. Normally I don’t recommend accepting coffee or tea because they can spill and ruin your interview. However, I have had countless amazing conversations with people on the topic of coffee. It may be because of where we live. The Northwest has several well-known coffee companies. Regardless, coffee is particularly fun to discuss. You might say, “No, thanks. I had one already this morning. Love the stuff, but one is my max.” The person offering coffee will probably offer his/her position on how many cups of coffee he or she drinks and a quick, comfortable bit of small talk will ensue. Just don’t get negative or talk about health issues. Stay positive.
These are just a few possible topics. You can safely go beyond these, but just keep non-political, non-religious and non-personal. Small talk is about filling empty space with soft, easy topics that leave both people feeling positive.
About the Author: Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.