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Safe conversation topics for interviews June 8, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I had a suggestion for a topic to write one of these short career-oriented pieces on, what safe topics are there for lunch or dinner conversations. People often do not want to divulge personal information too readily during an interview, so topics like family, relationships, even hobbies and pastimes are not ones they want to let others know of. It might give a biased or negative image in some way.

Whenever you are meeting new people, you flounder for topics that can be shared. An interview lunch or dinner ought to actually be easier than the norm because your hosts share something in common with you. They work doing things related to what you do. Their experiences parallel yours.

The first is the the shop talk you share during the interview itself. The latter is something to use during lunch or dinner. Your host more than likely went to both undergrad and grad schools. Getting each to tell you theirs is an opening for conversation. You can start with the innocuous question “How long have you worked here?” The next is where they might have worked before or “Did you come straight from grad school or a post-doc?”

Getting people to talk about themselves means you listen and comment. You show interest. This is much easier than talking about yourself. If you do not want to talk shop, talk about where their schools were – climate, local attractions and cuisine, sports teams, et cetera. Regional topics also might flow into your conversation. Some universities are not in the big cities of a state, but you can mention you liked a regional city (or even an attraction like a national park).

Sometimes these discussions lead to professors you have met from their schools, or another topic. Once you get the conversational flow going and away from you, you can let it go wherever it leads.

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