Want to Ace That Interview? Practice Your Small Talk



Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

 

Hi. You’re looking very well today. Is that shirt Gucci?

Wait, no. Don’t tell me. It’s Prada, isn’t it? Very cool.

Oh, it’s H&M? Ah. Oh.

Please forgive me, I’m practicing my spontaneous chit-chat.

I’ve been moved to do this by a study performed by a UK non-profit organization called Resurgo Trust.

It wondered how it is that some people get jobs. Specifically, it wondered how it is that snootier people seem to get jobs more easily than those from less privileged backgrounds.

What the researchers discovered is that both recruiters and employers are moved by the first 12 words you speak to them. Yes, small talk is apparently big. 

“It is things like how you greet the receptionist, what you say in the first few minutes or when walking down the corridor. It is smoothing over the gaps. A lot is social graces which (some) young people haven’t been exposed to,” said the Resurgo’s Iona Ledwidge.

Ah, yes. Social graces. Those things that posh people are taught from the minute they spit out their name-brand gruel. Those things that — allegedly — we from the grittier side of life aren’t so good at.

The Daily Mail, which unearthed this fine survey, quoted recruiter Scott Hutchinson: “That is why middle and upper class kids get more work — because they are confident. That confidence is bred into them from an early age so they can converse with people, they are almost taught it.”

What can you do, oh less privileged ones? Posh people go through the 12-Word Program at a very early age. They have their dashing dozen dollops of the dictionary memorized and merely slide them out of their mouths when the situation requires.

Or might this be complete bilge?

Humans are, indeed, emotional beings. We are influenced by some highly ephemeral triggers.

But what does it say about a recruiter or an employer if the first 12 words can have that much effect?

A nervous candidate is surely showing more of their humanity than a confident one.

And is confidence always such a fine thing, especially in America?

Sometimes, I get the feeling that we put the appearance of confidence far ahead of other, more enticing attributes — substance, for example.

Isn’t one potential reaction to a candidate who breezes in and makes slick small-talk: “A little full of ourselves, aren’t we?”

A job interview is little different from a date. You hope for some spontaneous chemistry, devoid of formula and fakery.

You hope that there will be a meeting of the minds, as well as of the spirit.

Neither party, when they go into it, knows what they truly might get out of it. It’s likely that both sides will be a little wary, so the first meeting of the words and ears will hopefully be a happy one.

Small talk might help you on a daily basis become more (or less) liked. But many people can see through the wind.

I prefer the suggestion by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy that the first thing people ask themselves when they meet you is: “Do I trust this person?”

Small talk is precisely that: small.



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