What does the weather, last night's Raptors game or traffic conditions have to do with landing a job? A lot if you want to make a good impression.
It only takes about 7 seconds to decide if you like someone. If you put a handshake and sincere goodwill in those 7 seconds, you'll probably make a good first impression. Follow up with a little friendly chitchat and you've set the tone for a productive meeting of minds.
Attitude trumps skills. Translation: employers will hire a friendly motivated candidate who's willing to learn over a more qualified candidate with a questionable attitude. And that judgement is made in a snap.
Stick to safe topics. Small talk gives people something to do while they get a feel for each other. The topic isn't that important as long as its familiar to both parties and offensive to neither. The Raptors is only a good icebreaker if you know you're with a basketball fan. But most people can appreciate the challenge of bad traffic or the euphoria of the first warm days of spring.
Feelings trump words. Neither of you is likely to remember much of what was said in those first few minutes. You're both too busy reading each others expressions, body language, mood and attitude. You're making a split second judgments about the person's personality, confidence, and sincerity. You can't help it - it's automatic and mostly unconscious. But you can improve your chances of making a good impression...
Lighten up. Begin a meeting with light comment. It doesn't have to be a joke. Prepare a few opening comments before arriving then say what feels right at the time.
Harness the power of small.
Be polite. Open doors. Offer sincere appreciation. Pay for the coffee. It goes a long way.
Jay Leno makes every guest the centre of his attention. This works in a job interview too. Ask questions. Give the interviewer the opportunity to tell their story to an engaged and curious audience.
Be a detective.
Small Talk is like putting.
Whenever I enter somebody's office I look for pictures, diplomas, sports equipment, clues. It helps to engage people about something they care about: a family photo, their alma mater (you can research this before a meeting), a new laptop or smart phone. Note these things in your CRM. Remember to mention how well their university is doing in the NCAA tournament during your next meeting and I guarantee the rest of your conversation will be smoother.
The more you practice it the better you get.