The importance of smalltalk

Smalltalk caricature

Most interviewers form a strong impression of their interviewee in the first few seconds.  Research differs on how long exactly you have to make a positive impression. What you can count on however, is that smalltalk will often be used as a friendly lighthearted precursor to the main “serious” portion of the discussion.

If you prepare yourself with a line of smalltalk, said with a smile and a firm handshake, you have already got off to a good start.

Here are some of Interview Advantage’s top tips for approaching smalltalk:


1.    LISTEN to what the other person is saying and try to identify ideas or areas of interest that the two of you might share.

2.    Keep it simple e.g. Ask about their day

  •      Your journey to the office
  •      How long they have worked for X
  •     I really like your offices (subtext – I’d   love to work here)
  •     “ I noticed on Linkedin that you ….”
  •      The weather!

3.    Keep it short and light : small talk is a light exchange of views, therefore avoid controversial subjects eg politics, religion or over-the-top flattery.  Listen more and speak less – as a rule don’t speak for more than 60 seconds

4.    Remember the interviewer is just a person – Try and perk up their mood (you could be the 10th person they’ve interviewed that day).  Re-energise them with enthusiasm

5.    Be professional to the end – smalltalk can happen at any stage of the assessment e.g. during the walk to the interview room or when you’re being escorted off the premises (and not always with the interviewer themselves, it could be an HR assistant or PA – whose input could be requested). Make sure you adhere to the above principles throughout and don’t let your guard or energy down.


If you are preparing for an interview, read more of our tips and techniques in this recent article on How to get noticed by employers and ace the interview.