Interviewee asks advice for pre-interview chit-chat

Interviewee asks advice for pre-interview chit-chat

Interviewee asks advice for pre-interview chit-chat

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by Rozanne "Roze" Worrell

WVEC.com

Posted on January 15, 2013 at 5:31 PM

 Dear Roze:

I need some serious help.  I can’t explain it but for some reason when I’m going into an interview, I always clam up right before the actual interview process begins.  It’s that brief segment of time between the time I first meet the interviewer and we’re supposed to have some small chit chat before the formal interview begins.  I’ve never had the gift of gab.  Any suggestions?

No gift of gab

Dear No gift of gab:

You are not alone.  Many people feel uncomfortable making small talk with someone they have never met.  Having said that, it is important to look at this pre-interview exchange of words as if it is an integral part of the formal interview and prepare for it just like you would prepare for the actual interview.  This preparation should include role-playing with a friend or family member, an exercise I am a huge proponent of.  

You know this small talk is going to take place and you know it will be very brief.  You may not think this right now, but when you are prepared for this conversation, it can be to your advantage to take the lead with it.  Typically, it does not deal with the job you are interviewing for, but with subjects as non-controversial as the weather or the dog that made national news for looking like a lion.  As I am sure you know, it is smart to stay away from polarizing topics such as politics.  During your preparation, find out as much as you can about the interviewer.  Their hometown or alma mater can serve as the basis for this conversation.  And if your interview takes place in the interviewer’s office versus a conference room, you can take note of the diploma on their wall or the photos on their credenza.  This will require a very quick study but can provide for safe topics.  

Bottom line, practice; practice; and practice more.  The more you are prepared, the more comfortable you will be and the better you will do.

Knock ‘em dead!

Dear Roze:

An old college friend heard about my business venture in a national publication, and emailed me suggesting, not requesting, we talk.  She cut right to the chase, no pleasantries or nice comments about what I’m doing except to note it had been a long time since we had seen each other.  Her email said she thought there was some commonality between what I’m doing and what she does with the company she started, and she wanted to know when, not if, I would be available to talk over the phone.  This bugs me because I had run into her about ten years after we graduated when we weren’t self-employed.  I had tried to set up a lunch but she blew me off.  Now, here it is almost 20 years since that chance meeting and she wants to talk.  From what I can tell from her Web site, I could bring her business.  So, my first reaction was she’s a big fat opportunist and could care less about a friendship.  I wanted to hit the delete button and act like I never received her email, but now that I’ve chilled out and have my business hat on, I’m leaning towards talking to her, but I’d still like to hear from you.  What do you think about this? 

Old friend wants to talk NOW

Dear Old friend wants to talk NOW:

Your business hat is helping you recognize the right thing to do!  Although difficult, it is wise to move on from expecting a personal friendship.  The possibility of a synergy to exist between your two businesses is reason enough to have a conversation with her.  Right now, it may seem like you can only help her, but you never know what this assistance could lead to.  I am a firm believer in not burning bridges as well as the old saying, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”  The only thing you may lose from this discussion is the period of time you spent preparing for it, if any, and the time you actually talk to her.   

Best of luck!

© 2013 Rozanne R. Worrell

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