It’s important to gage the candidates’ “people skills” and communication style, but getting caught up on it could be a downfall. Sticking to safe topics such as the cliché weather statement or rush hour, is key in making them feel comfortable in the environment. A few questions here and there will give you a good sense of their personality and ability to improvise conversation. Don’t go overboard though.
There are times, though, that candidates can show their preparation and dedication through small talk. Candidates should be familiar with the company and interviewer. This can be as simple as the alma mater of the interviewer. It is easy to tell if they did their homework and put in some effort to communicate on a personal level.
There is another way to get an idea of the candidate’s skills other than looking at their resume. Mentioning their schedules and past work day experiences, you can gather some intel on the candidates' time management and work productivity. Instead of asking out right what they do to plan their day, have it come up organically so that it is not staged.
Remember, they are there to interview about the job and show you their qualifications. This is a way of reaching the candidate on a level unachievable by pen and paper. Get a feel for who they are as a person and see if they will compliment your team.