Quickly building rapport with a candidate is an efficient way to get to the heart of an interview. But how do you do that without resorting to formulaic interview techniques? Learning the art of small talk can help you hire more creative team members who make a smooth transition into your company’s culture.
Small Talk with a Purpose
The ability to create connections with strangers is a real skill and one that’s essential in an array of professions. If you want to gain insight into the personality of a job candidate, there are meaningful and exciting new ways to do that.
Not so great at small talk yourself? Here are five simple ideas to get you started.
Small talk based on observation is a sure way to get the ball rolling. It really isn't all that difficult to find something you have in common with the person sitting across from you. Take your cue from their resume. Is there a position, hobby, school, or even home state you share? “I waited tables as a teenager, too. I still use some of the skills I learned doing that; how about you?”
Build off references.
Did a response to the observation question make you think of a follow-up? Use it next. “That’s interesting you say that. We just started an employee program here on that exact topic. What made you choose that as your answer?”
Reframe traditional asks.
One of the most feared questions for any interviewee is “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” Encourage the candidate to tell their story by saying something like “Great resume! I’ve been looking forward to talking with you and would love to hear more about you…”
Find something to compliment.
This can catch a candidate off guard but their reaction can offer real insight into how they handle praise. Are they cocky, humble, or gracious? Try “You seem to have a great sense of curiosity. How do you think that would help you in this position?”
When you preface a question with a disclaimer such as “I ask this question of everyone I interview,” you put a candidate at ease. Follow-up with a fun query like “What would you do if you won the lottery?” or “How would you convince someone to do something they didn’t want to do?" Questions like this can reveal more about a person than some other, more boring ones.
A Mutual Exchange
With over 90% of messages communicated non-verbally (think handshakes, eye contact, tone of voice, and posture), body language can have a big impact on the way you perceive each other. Put another way, if you want them to open up to you, you must open up yourself.
It’s up to the interviewer to put a job candidate at ease. Small talk as an interview technique will help the person across from you relax and put their best foot forward. And isn’t that what you’ve been aiming for all along?
Get more tips from experts on how hire better! Check out Hire Better: A Guide to Interviewing for Culture Fit