Small talk can often be a scary word, we envisage an awkward moment of silence, glanced exchanges, followed by a fleeting comment of the weather, sports or traffic. Feeling awkward yet?

You need not! Undercover Grad Recruiter is going to take you through some simple and basic steps to help you understand how perfect small talk and the value of learning how to use it in a recruitment process.

You may wonder why this post is focused on how to use it in a recruitment process… well it’s simple really. Throughout the process, you will have multiple phones call and engagements such as assessment centres/ group interviews and face to face interviews. Those few minutes you have in the lift or walking to your interview room can have un-measurable benefits if you are able to build a common connection or interest with your interviewer who will end up viewing you more positively.

Before we launch into the how to’s, let us examine why small talk is important:

  1. It makes people feel more comfortable and relaxed in the situation and environment which they are in
  2. It can build instant rapport, leading to longer term relationships
  3. Small talk can show off your communication and relationship building skills
  4. Small talk can allow you to show off your knowledge of the organisation and what is going on the industry
  5. It will leave you feeling more positive and confident from your engagement

How to understand the basics of small talk in 2 basic steps:

  1. If you are nervous about small talk-don’t wing it. In fact, never wing it until you become a pro! Develop conversational professional topics that you can rely on such as industry news, positive world topics, innovation or current tech companies that are creating the path for the future. Personal topics are important to build a connection. Topics such as sports, travel, hobbies, cooking or adventure are great ideas. Develop a repertoire of statements and topics that you can re-use so it helps relieve any nerves you may have.
  2. Take the time to understand yourself and then learn how to talk about your interests, goals and drivers. As humans we crave the ability to connect with one another so sharing something personal such as your goals is very meaningful and may have the other person do the same- instant connection win!


How to perfect small talk:

  1. Be conscious and aware of your audience and surroundings
  2. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, move to asking questions a few minutes into the conversation, but again be smart and careful about the type of questions you ask. Avoid close ended yes/no answers and opt for open ended questions to create discussion.
  3. Ensure you relax, don’t speak too fast or come across as overly nervous as this can put others off. It’s just small talk so relax!
  4. Pay attention to the other person’s body language during small talk- note if they are distracted, looking at the time, on their phones or perhaps not making eye contact or leaning away from you, this may be a good time to leave the conversation (if possible) or change topics if you are for example in the lift with them.
  5. Connect with people on similar interests, topics or holidays. For example if the person you are speaking with says their recent holiday was San Francisco, don’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the fact that you went there last year or you are really interested in the architecture or food scene in San Francisco.
  6. Drop a compliment- don’t lay in too thick, be genuine and meaningful in your delivery. Something like great shirt/ tie combo to a guy or lovely necklace or earrings to a women can work well to build the connection.
  7. Steer clear from touchy topics such as politics, religion or other unpleasant world topics. Personal views on these topics can lead to judgement which you cannot reconcile.

We understand the concept of talking to strangers for many people can be a nerve wracking experience, however you literally have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

Go on… give small talk a go.

Good Luck

UC Grad Recruiter