You need a tongue strap to stop some people talking, but you need an iron lever to pry some people’s mouths open, as they see small talk as a nuisance and having limited value. But who is right? Does small talk really matter? Can small talk really make a big difference to your career or will just walking into your interview room and listing your critical competencies when prompted suffice? Well, research tells us that small talk certainly won’t get an incompetent person the job, but the competent are more likely to get the job with some strategic and well placed small talk.
How do we know this? Well, this Kellogg Business school study of 120 hiring managers in the professionals services sector showed that modern hiring decisions were not just being based on competencies. It seems that hiring decisions are being based on a person’s culture fit, (determined by their interests and hobbies) and was becoming more important than experience and qualifications in the assessment decision. And what is one of the best vehicles through which to discuss and compare your hobbies and interests? It is, of course, some well placed small talk at the start and end of the interview, designed to display key hobbies and interests that you think will make you appealing to their business in terms of personality and culture fit. Thus, this well placed small talk can help you get the job and will have a massive positive impact on your career
Another area where some strategic small talk will help you to get the job is via word-of-mouth hiring, naturally, which is dependent on small talk to help you make contact with potential referrers. It also helps you to build trust, increasing the chance of them referring you for a job. And as many of you will know, who visit this site regularly, word-of-mouth hiring is the most common way that people get jobs in this increasingly culture fit conscious age, with this CareerXRoads study showing that the most common route to employment is word of mouth with 24.5 percent of jobs being filled via employee referral and word of mouth. So, if you engage in small talk effectively at networking events, such as dinners, conferences, meetings, etc. ,you will help to build a panel of contacts who will help refer you to jobs.
But, the explosive power of small talk doesn’t stop there. These connections that you have developed through small talk not only increase your chance of spotting vacancies, they increase your chance of being selected for the job. Yes, this study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that referred candidates are twice as likely to be called to interview than non-referred candidates and have a 40 percent chance of being hired.
Like it or loathe it, there is no doubting the power of small talk in helping job seekers to advance their career by building stronger personal connections, which increases their chances of being both referred to jobs and being selected for jobs. Of course, small talk alone won’t get you the job, it needs to be interspersed with appropriate displays of competency, vitality, enthusiasm and energy, but relationship building via small talk is clearly a key criterion in getting a job and advancing your career.