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On my way into work this morning I caught sight of a familiar occurrence around these parts this time of year- a student in a nice suit, pad-folio in hand and well groomed (of course) leaving the Northwestern Interview Center. Yes, we are in the midst of Fall Recruiting and thankfully we at Northwestern have several companies interviewing for full-time and even intern positions everyday.

One aspect of the interview process which is very important (that may surprise you) is small talk.

Did you know… that many companies bring a recruiter, or Northwestern alum employed at their organization, to be in the lobby or waiting area of the Interview Center to answer questions and to evaluate you even before the actual interview?

This method of interviewing is often evaluating:

  • Your interest and knowledge of the company and the position you are interviewing for
  • Your ability to communicate
  • Your personality

Be prepared with questions to ask any recruiter you interview with and know the answers to the following questions:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What do you know about our company?

Did you know… that interviewers evaluate you from the second they shake your hand?

First impressions are very important. The time spent with your interviewer in the lobby during the greeting and as you walk with them to where the interview will take place is part of the first impression. Here are some topics or conversation starters you can discuss during that walk to the interview room:

  • Ask the interviewer “how are you today?”
  • Talk about the weather (yes, I personally think this is ok especially in Chicago where you never know what the weather will bring)
  • If you know someone they know or have a common bond you can bring that up (i.e. “I believe you and I know someone in common…” or “I noticed on your LinkedIn Profile that you used to work at ABC Company… do you know____?”)
  • Talk about the office setting, building aesthetics or the surroundings if you are impressed by what you see (this is especially important for offices that pride themselves on the design of their space and their extras – gym, break room, etc.)

With this advice I hope you feel ready to use small talk to make a big impact on your interviewing success. Your goal should be that after your greeting and initial conversations your interviewer is excited to learn more about you, is comfortable with you and believes you are professional and present in the interview.