One of the most important things to do in an interview is to build rapport. I led a session last week at AYE, focused on conversations (not specifically interviews). One of the more memorable things I said is that you need to be personal but not intimate.
A participant asked, “What is personal but not intimate?” I explained that personal is about you, and intimacy is something you might see or do in the shower. (Ok, that was not one of the most articulate explanations I’ve ever given. You get 5 minutes to laugh and then please keep reading.)
The problem with small talk is that it’s not personal. “How about those Red Sox” or talking about the weather is something we could do with a complete stranger. But sharing little anecdotes from your life is personal. “I returned to gym yesterday morning after a three-week travel period. I’m surprised I’m not sore today.” That’s personal. Many of us have felt the soreness of pushing too hard when we start our regular workouts again. Some of us have felt guilty about not being sore–did I push hard enough yesterday? That’s a personal comment that allows us to build rapport. It may not be the right topic of conversation. But it’s a start, and suggests a topic for the other person.
If you have a minute or two of rapport-building talk, you’ve set the stage for a successful conversation, whether that is an interview or any other conversation.