Breaking the Ice: 5 Job Interview Conversation Starters

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been sitting in on first-round interviews and conducting second-round interviews (my company does three rounds of interviews), and I’ve boiled down how I see interviewees into two categories: those who see me as a regular person, and those who see me as an intimidating interrogator. I think it’s obvious which one I hire.

Conversation starters are one of the things I look for when I first greet an interviewee. I purposefully stay silent to see if the interviewee is comfortable enough to make small-talk. This is especially important in my business, as the day involves having conversations with clients face-to-face regarding our products and services.

Here are five conversation starters for you to use in your next job interview:

1. How Long Have You Been with the Company?

I love this question because, to me, it shows the interviewee is interested in growth. Essentially, they’re sizing up how long it will take them to get into my position. I also like the follow-up question of “and how do you like it so far?” because it is a great opportunity to tell candidates about how wonderful of a work environment our company creates.

2. Something Family-Related

Most hiring managers have pictures of their families on their desks (well, at least those who love their families). I have a picture of my parents on my desk, and I love when an interviewee asks about the picture. This tells me two things. The first thing it tells me is the interviewee is observant, and if they have the mental stamina to observe and use clues in their environment as conversation starters, then they are not stricken by interview jitters. The second thing it tells me is the interviewee is family-oriented. Our company has a family-like culture, so it’s an important quality we look for in our recruiting process.

3. Something Hobby-Related

For the same reasons as above, something hobby-related is a great conversation starter. Those who don’t have something family-related on their desk or hanging in their office will often have something related to their favorite hobby. The point is: use the clues in your environment to start conversation.

4. A Positive Current Event

I cannot stress the word ‘positive’ enough. I can’t tell you how many people think breaking the ice by complaining about the weather is a good form of small-talk for a professional interview. It honestly makes me want to end the interview right there. Why would you want to get the hiring manager thinking about negative things right before he or she is about to decide on your future?

5. Something About the Company’s Recent Success

I saved this one for last because out of all the conversation starters, this is the one which impresses me the most. In today’s digital age, every company is bragging about its success on its digital space. If you bring up something along these lines, it makes me want to literally offer you a job on the spot. I can tell just from that conversation starter.