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I officially abdicate from the role of Queen of (Lazy) Small Talk

I’m currently completing a Ross Clennett Program – Leadership Coaching for High Performance (highly recommended, BTW). As part of my homework, I explored some of Ross’s previous blog articles as a little pre-reading. An article that was originally published back in 2010 immediately jumped out at me. It is called Are you still stuck in the recruitment dark ages? My initial thought was: Surely not, I am mostly Gen X with a dash of millennial thrown in… Dark ages… ppft. Upon reading it I was embarrassed to learn that one of my genial habits belongs in Westeros, without indoor plumbing or running water.

What is this bad habit, I hear you ask? It’s small talk. Well more so, my icebreaker one-liners. These are the old standards like, “Did you find us ok?”,How’s your day?” and “How’s the weather outside? Is it still sunny/rainy/windy/cold/cloudy/all of the above (I’m based in Melbourne)?” that I roll out in interviews or meetings with candidates and clients.

I’d prefer not to think I greet people with clichés, but we are all guilty of being a bit lazy when engaging with others from time to time.

Ross says why not take the time to really (I mean really) prepare for a meeting and come up with something meaningful as the ice-breaker. As a recruitment consultant, this could be looking for connections in common with a candidate, such as having worked at the same company, in a similar role or related industry. They may have some interesting interests and hobbies, (a case in point if you have ever wondered whether it is worthwhile including such information on your resume). Whatever you choose, make it PERSONAL.

I’ve made it my personal mission from now until Christmas to not utter any of those tired one-liners, and I have to say… I’m doing OK so far. Here are three of my recent cliché-free icebreakers:

  1. I see you’ve worked in Japan for two years, tell me about some of the cultural differences in the workplace?
  2. How was your time with Twitter? I’ve heard amazing things about the office and company culture.
  3. You grew up in Darwin, so did I! Do you know Fannie Bay (yes, it’s a real suburb of Darwin and I did grow up there)?

All three sparked wonderful free flowing conversations that turned into A+ interviews and unsurprisingly, the third candidate and I realised that we had friends in common (that’s Darwin after all).

So let’s not be lazy with our small talk; a little prep and a bit of thought goes a long way.

What bad ice-breaker one liners are you going to stop using?

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work