• Interview
  • Recruitment

Preparing your interview: small talk big impact

When preparing for an interview, most people get ready to show their skills and motivations. The small talk before and after the interview is usually not prepared. However, we would suggest not to improvise because this apparently innocent discussion can have a big impact on the perception your interviewers get from you.

The question is: who are you interviewing with and which seniority level do you target? Customize and adapt your small talk accordingly!

Over the last years, we realized that the topic a candidate picks on their way to the interview room already reveals their current responsibility level and their aptitude to assume a leading role. No matter what is said later in the interview, those first minutes outside the meeting room already illustrate who you are. The thing is, when we do not prepare the small talk, we all naturally tend to land on junior related topics: that is because those are the easiest to come up with.

So when preparing your interview, you need to think of a couple of topics that will resonate with the seniority level of the position you’re aiming: junior/ manager/ executive – and also the image you wish to give.

Here are a couple of examples:

A junior is incentivized on their individual performance: so typically a junior candidate tends to address individual related topics. He/she has checked the LinkedIn profile of the hiring manager, has read the careers page of the company and might stick to this information. Juniors tend to ask questions about the work-life balance or the working style of the company.

A manager is normally more focused on organizational topics as he/she is incentivized on the performance of their team. So, a manager tends to address team-related topics on the scale of the division or of the company. For instance, he/she might address the pros and cons of a remote shared service center set-up, the difficulty to retain millennials or the impact of the divestiture of a Business Unit on the teams, etc.

The C-level members of a company are incentivized on the performance of the group. So, executives tend to naturally address topics in relation to the business: macroeconomic facts on the industry, information on the competition, change in equity ownership, fluctuation of the share price.

Consequently, pick your topic carefully. For instance, when applying for an executive role (CFO), try to bring market information to the table, say valuable information to the CEO. When being on this high level of communication, you already send the message that you evolve above daily operational considerations and that what keeps you awake at night are strategic matters. It is an excellent start to prove your leadership before the interview has actually started.

Maybe you won’t get a chance to address all topics. This can be frustrating. However, being prepared already gives you a certain level of confidence people will feel. You can prepare a plan A (executive level small talk), a plan B (management level, already easier), and a plan C (individual level, much easier).  

Of course, the small talk you have prepared needs to come naturally to you. It would be awkward to jump on the topics you have prepared, while skipping the first necessary polite and neutral questions: greetings, would you like a coffee, nice weather today, etc. But remember: to the question “did you find our offices address easily?” the only possible answer is “yes”. No other option!  😉