Interviews can be intimidating and those moments before getting into the nitty gritty about why you're the most qualified person for the gig can be nerve-wracking. Your palms are sweaty, butterflies are holding the Olympic Games in your belly, and the "what ifs?" running through your head could make a sane person feel like they've gone off the rocker.

All you want to do is ace the interview, but now, studies have shown that you must be skilled in more than rattling off your resume highlights and future goals. It's time to become a small talk expert, because the little things count as much as your educational and career milestones.

But what if talking about last night's baseball game score or the 75% chance of thunderstorms isn't you're forte? If small talk isn't your big talent, you don't have to throw in the towel. You can improve your ability to chit chat with finesse and ease with some practice for "shooting the breeze." Not only will these skills help nail down the job you want, but you'll always be comfortable around groups or individuals you've just met at work functions, parties, and other social events.

Now's your chance to become a small talk aficionado who will be able to work your charm to impress your future employer. Because as per Harvard Business Review, they'll be able to get a "valid idea about your personality, trustworthiness, and intelligence, as well as a sneak peek at how you will perform on the job," thanks to the ice-breakers and what you may perceive to be "superficial" pre-interview questions.


Show Genuine Interest

No matter the topic, be it the potted plant in the corner of the office or the latest news on the presidential campaign, be sure to be engrossed in the conversation with genuine interest in what the other person is saying and in how you communicate. Ask questions to show you care about how the interviewer feels and to learn a little about them too.

As per Business Insider, "If you don't fundamentally care about the person you are speaking with, that will show." Just like your future employer wants you to be passionate about the job at hand, he or she will want to see your legitimate interest in other aspects of socializing and being a well-rounded person as well. A few bits of small talk done right can be the difference between you or someone else landing the gig when all other factors are on equal footing.

Be In-the-Know

Small talk leaves open the possibility to cover endless topics. The more well-read and up-to-date with the current climate and news cycle you are, the better prepared you'll be for engaging in various areas of small talk. As per Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D., director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University, as posted on Real Simple, "To keep your conversation timely and lively, scan newspaper headlines and movie and book reviews." Business Insider adds to "include the news sections that don't really interest you," as well. You never know what topic may be brought up, so at least a baseline knowledge of the issue is better than no information at all.

In addition, learn all you can about the interviewer and the company you're interviewing with pre-interview. You won't come across as eager for the job or even a respectable candidate if you aren't well-informed about the company, their values, and their milestones. This knowledge is the bridge that connects small talk with the heavy-hitting interview questions.

Stay Positive

As per Huffington Post, "It's wise to keep your small talk focused on the bright side. Whether it's offering a meaningful compliment, asking someone about their day or even making someone laugh, you'll be starting a deeper conversation that won't leave you both feeling worse than when you started." And Business Insider adds, "Try to make everyone you talk with feel a little better about themselves after having met and talked to you," and that goes for the person who's interviewing you too.

Always be honest, hopeful, and relatable. Those qualities are important for an employer to see in a future employee. You'll want to walk out of your interview leaving the person you've spoken with feeling like the time spent with you was worthwhile, whether or not they're prepared to offer you the job. While you may not be right for that particular role, a positive attitude can pave the way for a recommendation for another position or a call back in the future. It will also give you leverage if you're chosen for a position and you're negotiating salary or other benefits.

These tips will help with small talk, but one way to nail it is by practicing as much as possible. Be more assertive in social settings and put these techniques to use before the big interview. Soon, small talk will come smoothly and you'll be ready to ace your interview from any angle!

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.