From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

June 2020
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Small talk for networking and interviewing
Filed under: Interviewing, Networking
Posted by: site admin @ 8:25 pm

This is an out of the ordinary post.

Normally, we post interactions with members who wish
specific information, while keeping their identity anonymous.
The logic and perspective of their question and the
information shared and sometimes used are what
have been noted by readers as being valuable.

Also, we comment on specific online websites and articles
that may be of value to members.  Some of the references
are then linked.

This post relates to ’small talk.’  It is an essential part
of networking, getting to know people and interviewing
in the US.  As we develop a new workshop being offered
for the first time in Chicago on the General concept of
Communication skills for chemical professionals, it
appears that it needs to be covered.  So, I am gathering
relevant information for it.

The first notion I wish to share is about an NPR interview
 with Deborah Fine author of a book on small talk. 
She defined it as the “picture frame around the focus
of a business conversation”.  It is ’surface level
conversation’ that makes people more comfortable,
explores common ground and conveys interest in
each other.

In the interview, Fine points out things that could be taboo
in ’small talk.’  Don’t say
  - “Can I be honest with you now about….” what have
been saying in the whole conversation
  - “I will try to get back to you…”  either you will or you
  - weak phrases that don’t say things are not helpful.

A second article is by Sinara Stull O’Donnell, “Interview small
talk makes a big impression.”
She suggests in her article to show interest, display courtesy and

But the article that struck home to me was Diane E.
Lewis’s “The art of the interview– US Style.”

 It’s tone offered a view of how small talk plays a role
in US interviews that reveals some cultural differences
between our culture and those of people
from other backgrounds.  For those people it
is crucial to understand this and then do it well.

She talks about understanding that the
interviewer will normally offer the start of small
talk and the interviewee is expected to comply
with control, knowing that it will be short. How
does one learn this skill?  Speaking with mentors and
engaging in mock interviews.

Hope this offers some help about small talk.



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