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9 Tips For How To Make Interview Small Talk

By Maddie Lloyd
Jan. 30, 2023

Find a Job You Really Want In

Summary. Small talk during a job interview can help you make a personal connection with the interviewer, so it’s important to be prepared for it.

There’s a lot to think about before going into an interview. After preparing for any possible question that could be thrown your way, you should think about how you’ll handle small talk.

Here’s everything you need to know about small talk in an interview.

Key Takeaways:

  • Whether you exchange lighthearted banter with your interviewer before jumping into the real questions or if you just want to fill any possible awkward silences, you should be prepared to engage in professional (and impressive) small talk

  • When making small talk it is important to find common interests, mention something company related, and ask your interviewer questions and be engaged in the conversation.

  • Small talk can be just as important as the questions you answer because the way you answer can make you stand out from others.

9 Tips for How to Make Interview Small Talk.

Why Is Small Talk Important at a Job Interview?

Small talk is important at a job interview for building rapport with the hiring manager or recruiter. An interviewer may even remember candidates best by looking back on the informal chats she had before the actual interview questions and answers.

Interviews are also pretty anxiety-inducing, so starting off with a little small talk beforehand is in everyone’s best interest. Do what you can to relax before the interview, and be prepared for a little warm-up conversation that will set the tone for the rest of the interview.

9 Tips for How to Make Interview Small Talk

  1. Ditch the small talk cliches. This isn’t a RomCom where unimaginative cliches are what makes people interested in you. Friendly chatter about the weather or the awful traffic in the area is easy to lean on, but it’s boring and won’t make anyone remember who you are or anything you say.

    We recommend you avoid the uninspired generalities. Everyone else is probably going to fall back on these topics, and you want to be the candidate that stands out against everyone else — it’s hard to stand out when employers are trying to differentiate between all the candidates who said they “love sunny weather.”

  2. Find a common interest. When doing your research before the interview on the company’s history, do your best to find out who your interviewer is going to be and try to learn about them on LinkedIn or the company website — and keep your eyes peeled for anything you might have in common.

    • Do they spend their spare time volunteering with an organization you’re passionate about? Voilà! Instant connection. Do they seem to have a love of animals? Mention that you enjoy caring for your dog that you rescued from the shelter.

    • Make sure to rein in it and avoid being creepy. Don’t say things like “Oh my gosh, I saw on your personal Instagram that you like to bake dog-friendly vegan cupcakes. I also love to bake with my dogs! His favorite is cupcakes!”

    • Instead, you should try to bring up relevant information as naturally as possible. For example, if the interviewer asks “How are you?” you could say something along the lines of:

    • “I’m great, thanks! I started out the morning with a smoothie made from fruits and vegetables I grew in my own garden, so I can’t really complain.”

  3. Mention something company-related. Remember that the goal here is to show the employer that you’d be the best fit for their company, so you want to take every opportunity you can to show that you’re interested in their successes and current projects.

    • While you’re waiting for your interview to begin, try to look for something that could help you start a conversation — maybe the company has awards on display, or perhaps you overhear a few co-workers talking about their annual holiday gingerbread house competition.

    • These little pieces of info about the company culture can be a great topic of conversation that you can make work in your favor, so don’t be afraid to use them. You can bring them up by saying things like:

      “I couldn’t help but overhear some talk about a gingerbread house competition. It sounds like you guys have a great office culture here — and I love making gingerbread houses.”

  4. Ask your interviewer questions. No matter how hard you try to prepare for small talk, it can still be super uncomfortable. Sometimes when we’re nervous, all of our small talk social skills can go right out the window. In these moments of anxiety when you run out of things to talk about, it never hurts to ask the interviewer questions.

    Not only will this take the spotlight off of you, but it will give the interviewer to tell you a little bit more about themselves. You can ask questions like, “Do you have any fun projects coming up this week?” or “What do you like most about working here?”

    Asking questions will also show that you’re interested in learning more about the company and what a regular day at the office looks like. It’s a win-win situation.

  5. Convey your interest. Small talk serves a few purposes — it can help put you at ease, allow employers to judge how you act under pressure, and help employers judge your people skills.

    We may be stating the obvious here, but even if the topic of conversation isn’t one that is particularly interesting to you, you should still try to pretend that you care. If you try to act aloof and mysterious, the interviewer probably won’t care to learn any more about you.

    Put your phone away from the get-go. Even though it seems clear-cut here and now, it can be tough to remember to keep your devices out of sight for the duration of the interview process — even the small talk part.

    It’s nearly impossible to come off as engaged or enthusiastic if you’re giving even a fraction of your attention to a device instead of your interviewer.

  6. Stick to safe, uncontroversial topics. Sorry, but this isn’t Facebook — that means no talking about politics or religion. It might be hard for you to keep from spewing your heated opinions about reproductive health and gun control to yourself, but please, an interview is not the time or the place

    • If the interview brings up a controversial topic (e.g., “How do you feel about that new healthcare bill?”), don’t fall for it. Just smile and say nothing, or change the subject. If you feel that you absolutely must respond, calmly say something along the lines of “I haven’t read the details, but what do you think?”

    • No matter what they say, try not to get all fired up — they might be testing you, or maybe you’ve run into an interviewer who has no filter or asks illegal interview questions. In that case, you might want to reconsider how badly you want to work there.

    • Of course, one caveat to this piece of advice is if you’re applying for a job somewhere that deals explicitly with controversial issues.

      For example, if you’re trying to get into a job at a political think tank that focuses on the climate change issue, it’s okay (and probably encouraged) to have an opinion on the government’s role in combatting climate change.

  7. Be an active listener. Make sure to pay attention to your body language by nodding and maintaining eye contact so that your interviewer knows that they have your undivided attention.

    Show that you’re listening by asking insightful follow-up questions or simply making comments that demonstrate that you’re following along.

    Give your interviewer ample time to speak and avoid interrupting them. Try not to go on any rants yourself, but if the interviewer feels the need to ramble, let them vent. Being a good listener can make all the difference in someone’s impression of you.

  8. Ensure that the conversation makes you look good. Make the small talk work in your favorite, or at the very least, don’t make it work against you. If the interviewer asks how you are, try to avoid saying things like “Ugh, I’m awful. I hate when the sun is out. I always get sunburned.” This won’t make anyone like you.

    • Everything you say during an interview should be focused on selling your strengths and qualifications. Make sure that what you say while engaging in small talk makes you seem intelligent and sane — not air-headed, grumpy, and crazy.

    • Speak with positivity and enthusiasm, and interviewers will pick up on it. People feel happier after talking to visibly happy people, and it’s never a bad thing to leave your interviewer in a good mood.

    That being said, don’t go over-the-top bubbly, especially if your interviewer strikes a more sober tone. Personality mirroring is a safe way to establish and build rapport. Knowing a bit more about your hiring manager or recruiter’s personality will also help you frame your answers throughout the interview.

  9. Use appropriate body language. Small talk doesn’t just include the things you say; it also includes how you communicate with your body. Make sure to maintain good eye contact, keep your chin high (but not too high), and smile when appropriate.

    Avoid doing things that seem unprofessional or show that you’re nervous. Don’t jiggle your knee, pick your nose, check your phone, scratch your butt, etc. You get the idea. Basically, act like an adult who’s confident and prepared for an interview, and you’ll be golden.

Example Small Talk Questions

  1. Work questions:

    • What did you do in your last position?

    • What’s some great career advice?

    • What’s your leadership style like?

    • What background do you need for this position?

  2. Lifestyle questions:

    • Where did you live before moving here?

    • What are some fun things to do around this area?

    • What is the most unique experience that has happened to you?

    • Are there any great restaurants in this area?

  3. Entertainment questions:

    • What is something everyone in the office enjoys doing?

    • What is your favorite TV show?

    • I have been enjoying [book title] have you read anything from that author?

Interview Small Talk FAQs

  1. Is small talk important for a job interview?

    Yes, small talk is important for a job interview. In fact, many interviewers consider small talk to be part of the interview. They are attempting to get a sense of who you are as a person and how you will fit in at their company.

  2. Should I ask questions during a job interview?

    Yes, you should ask questions during a job interview. The job interview is a two-way street – you’re also there to learn about the company and the role you’re applying for.

    Asking small talk questions can be a good way to build rapport with the interviewer, and asking well-informed questions about the position or company helps to show your interest.

Final Thoughts

Small talk is a great way to form a genuine connection with your interviewer and show them that you’re friendly, intelligent, and a perfect fit for the position.

Every part of an interview is a chance to sell yourself and leave a positive impression on an employer, and preparing for small talk is a great way to get a lead on everyone else.

Good luck with your next interview. I hope the weather is clear and the traffic is easy-going — just try not to bring it up to the interviewer.


  1. U.S. Department of Labor – Interview Tips

Expert Opinion

How do you research an interviewer before an interview?

Greta R Schneider
Professional Resume Writer | CEIP | CCS
Sharp Career Image

Be sure and gather the names and titles of the hiring manager and all interviewers from the recruiter in preparation for the job interview. You can leverage the company website and LinkedIn to review the interviewer(s) profile and gain understanding of their career bio, work experience, and any personal interests. This additional information will help you refine your answers to interview questions to be more relatable to the company and the interviewers.

Being familiar with your interviewer’s background will also help you feel more at ease with casual conversation and ultimately improve your ability to build a strong first impression and connection with your interviewers.

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Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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