You want to work with people who you like and have an easy rapport with.
~ Mike White, Writer, Actor, Producer
Building rapport with your interviewer is crucial to a successful outcome. You’ll recall that this is one of the 12 Hot Tips for Making A Show Stopper of a First Impression that I mentioned in a previous entry.
The truth is people prefer to work with those they like and with whom they get along, identify and have something in common. With this principle in mind, the following dozen techniques, and some reminders, can help you to build rapport with your interviewer:
- Smile – It cannot be overstated that a smile establishes warmth and a congenial atmosphere that surrounds you and instantly puts people at ease. Make it genuine and natural (which means if you’re not used to smiling, you need to practice before the interview). A smile is your most powerful secret weapon to establish rapport.
- Mind Your Manners – Shaking hands skillfully, standing when the interviewer enters the room; introducing yourself and repeating the interviewer’s name when introduced; not interrupting; and always showing courtesy and respect all score big points.
- Make Eye Contact – Failing to look at the interviewer is a major complaint of hiring managers. Such behavior can be due to shyness, lack of confidence, cultural differences or lack of awareness. Practice making eye contact – but not staring – to engage your interviewer.
- Maintain Good Posture – As a reminder, stand and sit up straight, square your shoulders, hold your head held high. You’ll look smart and confident.
- Watch Your Body Language and Other Non-Verbals – Another reminder! For details, review the aforementioned 12 Hot Tips for Making A Show Stopper of a First Impression.
- Mirror Your Interviewer – Assess your interviewer’s personality, mood, choice of words and body language; and then and mirror them. For example, if you’re the quiet type and your interviewer is outgoing and energetic, try to pump up your approach; conversely, if you’re the outgoing one and your interviewer seems withdrawn (it happens!), tone your personality down a bit. In addition, use the same terms or phrases your interviewer uses, even if they seem outdated or from a different cultural region. That is, if your interviewer offers you a “sweet roll“ instead of a “danish,” or a “soda” instead of a “pop,” thank him for the sweet roll or soda. If your interviewer gestures a lot, when it seems natural to do so subtly mirror one or two of her gestures. Noticing some of our own traits in others endears us and builds rapport. Be subtle, however; don’t appear to be mimicking or mocking.
- Listen Closely and Carefully – Pick up cues from listening carefully to your interviewer. What does she like or dislike? Did she mention her hometown or alma mater? Does she display a photo of herself mountain climbing? If you discover something in common or an interest she displays of which you have some knowledge, comment on it. Wait for an opportunity to do so without interrupting the flow of the discussion or causing a distraction, and only if and when appropriate.
- Show Your Sense of Humor – Most people appreciate a sense of humor and like people with whom they can share a laugh. Using humor in answering a tough question or chuckling appreciatively at your interviewer’s attempt at humor shows that you have wit, intelligence and people skills and would be an upbeat and inspiring addition to the team. Surveys by AccountTemps and CareerBuilder point toward the power of demonstrating your sense of humor in a job interview and how much it is valued by employers. Use humor sparingly, however, like a pinch of spice in a recipe. To be avoided are the actual telling of jokes (unless asked as part of a behavioral interview) and loud or nervous laughter.
- Be Authentic – Don’t try to be someone you’re not or force behavior with which you are not comfortable. Be happy with and confident in yourself and let those feelings shine through.
- Show Humility – While you’re selling yourself don’t come off as overconfident or, worse, arrogant. Balance your self-confidence with humility. Avoid overusing the word, “I”; instead, use “we” to show that you’re accustomed to being a team player. Moreover, the corporate approach in everyday practice is generally to use the word, “we,” and avoid using “I.”
- Express Your Interest – The interviewer wants to know how strongly you want the position. Deep interest and enthusiasm count. So, you have to say the words! For example: I’m really interested in this position and hope you’ll seriously consider hiring me. I’m eager to join your team. This is the job I want, and the company I want to work for.
- Be Grateful – Extend your hand and say thank you to all members of the panel for their time and for a great interview; you should thank everyone at the company on your way in and out who extends to you assistance and kindness. During the interview, mention instances for which and people to whom you are grateful (during college, career or personal life). When the interview concludes and you and your interviewers rise, ask each one for his or her business card (if you don’t already have them all) and inquire what the expected timeline is for their making a decision, and if you may call for an update. Don’t linger unless you are invited to remain for a particular reason.
If you practice and implement these techniques you’ll go a long way to connecting in a positive and powerful way with your interviewer. It’s important to understand how volatile the interview process can be. Even if you aren’t the front runner for one reason or another, the top choice might drop out and your star could rise and put you within striking distance. Or the front runner could fail to use one of the above techniques and lose to you on the handshake, the humor factor or another point. These days, candidates are separated by razor thin margins; often just one detail can put the winning candidate over the top.
Until next time,