What do you talk about from the reception to the interview room?
If you dread small talk you probably find the walk to the interview room awkward and uncomfortable. However, it’s one of those situations to consider now, rather than bury your head and regret it later.
Everyone knows the importance of preparing for an interview. To stand out from the other candidates you need to think about something different these days.
I remember while being an in-house recruiter, interviewing approximately 6 candidates a day. I didn’t have time for lunch! It was challenging to remember each candidate by the end of the day.
How can you be different? We are lucky to have so much information at our fingertips today. Take some time to explore social media and see what turns up. It will give you an insight into what the business considers important. You’ll recognize their brand and hopefully identify their values.
Here are some ideas;
Find a common interest
It’s always a good idea to research the interviewers as well as the company. Look up the interviewers on LinkedIn and find out their background, where they have previously worked, where they studied, what subjects did they study? Your aim to find something in common.
You could also look at their recent activity on LinkedIn. This will give you an indication of what’s of interest to them. Look at their recent (or not so recent!) posts.
- What posts did they comment on?
- What posts did they share?
This may give you some ideas about what to talk about or just give you an indication of them as a person.
Check out their recommendations and find out what others have written about them. This will give you an insight into what other people think of this person and start to build up a picture of their character.
Once the interview starts, the interviewers will be asking you lots of questions. Don’t make the conversation from reception to the interview room all about you. Take the focus off yourself and ask them a question.
Try to avoid the normal, “How are you?” because most people will just politely say, “Well thank you.” Instead ask, “How’s your day been so far?” or “Have you been working on anything interesting this morning?”
Use the information you gathered from your research to ask relevant questions. “I noticed you studied at this University. What was it like studying there?”
Try not to ask closed questions. You are likely to get a yes, or no, response. Ask open questions to start a conversation.
You need to be mindful to keep the conversation short and concise. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get into a full-on debate about a controversial topic. Also, you won’t know how far away the interview room is from the reception on your first visit.
Company relevant information
Part of your preparation for the interview will be researching specifically about the company. Mention something of interest that you found on social media or the website. You can use this information to lead into a question or just as an observation.
“I noticed the company are involved in charity events and they’ve raised XX amount. What a lovely thing to do”.
Again, as previously mentioned, keep the conversation light and short. You also don’t want to ask question after question, otherwise, it could feel like an interrogation.
Talk about something interest
Ideally, small talk is your opportunity to paint yourself in a positive light, and demonstrate that you fit into the organization.
That’s why it’s important to do your homework and research the company and the interviewers.
Your aim is to make a positive first impression and show that you care about the interview. However, there are occasions when you can go off-script! You’ll need to use your judgment when doing this.
Remember to ask the open question first to start the conversation. Then ask further questions to keep the conversation going. This requires some active listening to be able to ask the right probing questions.
My second interview in a City Bank several years ago was in a building opposition, St Pauls.
The interview was in Bracken House, Friday Street, London. A beautiful Grade I listed building with significant features.
Bracken House was home to the Financial Times previously and I understand it’s once again their home with some significant refurbishment.
The building has a working Astrological Clock with signs of the Zodiac above a side entrance (not used today) with the face of Winston Churchill. It also has beautiful facades on each side of the building.
When the interview finished my future manager walked me to the glass lifts. He couldn’t help commenting on the way I looked up and around the reception area, and we got to talking about photography.
It made a lasting impression…I think! I got the job!
I’m sure I got the job because of my previous experience but it was nice to share an insight to the person, rather than being all about the job.
Summary of do’s and don’ts
- Do keep the conversation light and short
- Don’t start conversations about big topics because you won’t have time
- Do select neutral subjects or topics that are relevant to the job and the company
- Don’t bring up controversial topics; Avoid talking about your political affiliation, or any other sensitive topics. It can be an emotive subject
- Don’t talk about yourself for the duration of the walk – you need to show interest in the interviewer or the person showing you to the interview room
- Do be mindful you may not finish the discussion or conversation, as you don’t know how close or far the interview room is from the main reception
- Avoid talking about the weather unless you are a meteorologist! Laura Tobin and Alex Beresford are allowed to talk about the weather!
Remember anyone involved in the recruitment process should not be asking you questions that relate to any of the protected characteristics.
Consider carefully what you are going to talk about because it might be topics recruiters cannot discuss.
Do your research and select topics of interest. Be your most positive self and keep the first conversation light and short. Even if they ask a question, don’t be tempted to go on and on about yourself. Turn it around and ask about them.
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