Interviews usually start with some "small talk" (casual conversation) before moving to the main topic.
If you're about to go to a job interview in America or in any other English-speaking country, you should prepare for small talk.
Small talk topics for job interviews in English
How do you prepare for small talk? Here's how:
Be able to answer questions
If you're about to go to a job interview in America, or in any other English-speaking country, you should prepare for small talk.
- Read this article and make sure you can answer all of the basic small talk questions in it.
- Study current events, both in the country and in the city where you're interviewing. You should read the main newspapers - in the US you should read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal - and also one for whatever city the interview will be in.
Be able to ask questions
Answering questions is part of every interview, but asking them is also important, even during small talk. You don't want to have a long silence during the conversation. If your interviewer isn't talking, it's time for you to say something. A question is always good.
Write down a list of questions you can ask and look at it right before your interview starts or use the ones below.
10 topics you can ask questions about during small talk
*Topics to avoid: politics, religion, money, family
How long have you worked at _________?
What do you think of the company?
Have you had a busy week?
2. Location: neighborhood/city/state
Do you live near here?
How long have you lived in _________?
3. Books or articles
- Focus on new ones in your industry or ones that are popular now with professionals like you
Did you read the article about __________ this morning?
I read the new biography of Steve Jobs. Have you read it?
- Don't ask about soccer (football) since most Americans don't watch it
- Keep track of what sports are played during which seasons in America, so you ask questions about the right one
Did you see the Red Sox game last night?
Again, you may not interviewing in America, so make sure you know what sports are popular where you are interviewing. Remember, just because you like a sport does not mean that the interviewer will.
5. Arts and entertainment
- Current TV shows or movies are usually safe although they may not watch it or have seen it
Did you see the last episode of Game of Thrones?
- Anything happening in the news can be a good topic but avoid politics.
Have you been watching the Olympics?
- Since you are not from the US, you can ask them if they've ever been to your country.
Have you ever been to Argentina?
Are you planning to travel this Christmas? this summer/this Thanksgiving - use this if there is a holiday approaching
8. Tech stuff
- New gadgets, like phones, computers, apps, applications, etc. There may be something new that everyone in your industry is using.
Is the company using ________?
- This can be about anything, as long as it's a general and acceptable topic and appropriate for professionals like you
I see you have a Starbucks downstairs. Do you like their coffee?
10. The weather
It's boring, but if you can't think of anything else, it works.
Okay, now you have 10 ideas for topics you can make small talk about in your interview. As you can see, the questions can be about any topic as long as it won't make the other person angry or unhappy.
The main point is to keep the conversation going and keep the mood positive.
One of the reasons I started my business is that in my past career I interviewed many talented people who didn't get the job because they couldn't communicate with me comfortably.
This wasn't just because of their English. I realized that it's very common for people to ignore the small talk section of the interview because they think it's not important. But then they don't get the job and they blame their English.
I'm telling you right now that your English is one factor in this process but it's not the only one. Making small talk is more of a culture thing than a language thing. For some reason English speakers like small talk so you just have to incorporate that into your practice routine.
From senior VP to entry-level candidates, my clients have nailed the interview and landed the job. Let's work together preparing for your interview and take your career to the next level. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.
Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers.