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How to build rapport during your interview
Successful interviews usually happen when the interviewer and interviewee are, at some level, on the same page. Building rapport with anyone you meet for the first time is easier when it’s clear you like each other and when you have common interests. But because of the nature of an interview, a personal connection is not essential.
It is, however, necessary to leave a positive, lasting impression, so creating professional rapport during your interview should be a primary focus.
Before the interview
It’s easier to build rapport with someone you have something in common with, so researching the company before the interview is important. Aside from the fact that you’ll come across as disinterested if you don’t know anything about the organisation, finding out some details and current issues will give you an easy topic to discuss during the interview – and will help prevent you from floundering if you’re asked a tricky question.
You can also look up your interviewer, if you know his or her name, on LinkedIn to gather some information about their current role, objectives, and any articles or posts they’ve created on the platform.
If you’re interviewing at an organisation with a smart dress code, mirror your interviewer by wearing a suit. If you’re uncertain about the dress code, you should ask your recruiter, and if you’re still not clear, it’s always wise to over-dress rather than under-dress to show you’re someone who’s interested in the role and wishes to present themselves well. If you get the job, you can always align your office attire with the rest of the company, but you’ll risk coming across as sloppy or even disrespectful if you don’t put your best foot forward for the interview.
Starting the interview
Although building rapport fairly swiftly is important, starting an interview in an overly familiar way can be perceived as inappropriate behaviour. Plan for the potentially awkward few moments between being met at reception and being shown to the meeting room by preparing some background questions to break the ice before the actual interview starts – such as asking the person how long they’ve been in the organisation themselves.
In general, it’s a good idea to ask open-ended questions in order to encourage conversation. The ability to demonstrate genuine interest in a role and organisation in a friendly, relaxed way ensures that the interview starts on a positive note. On the basis that all candidates interviewing will probably have a similar skill set and level of experience, it’s often the person who seems the most enthusiastic about the opportunity who makes the best impression.
During the interview
While the temptation may be to treat an interview like an exam, it’s important to aim for a conversational tone. And although you’ll have a lot on your mind while you’re in the interview room, try to remember these points:
· Where possible, try subtly mirroring your interviewer’s body language. It shouldn’t be obvious that you’re trying to copy them, but people generally respond to those who seem to be engaged with them.
· Listen to everything your interviewer says; echoing your interviewer’s responses shows that you’ve listened and understood. Repeat some of their comments back to them, and show you approve of what they say. A good way to do this is to answer in full sentences, for example, answering a question like “What would you say is the industry outlook this year?” with “The industry outlook this year is…”.
· Avoid talking about politics or religion; it may cause awkwardness or even offence. Keep to topics that are related to the industry, organisation and role, unless the interviewer asks an informal question. It’s also a good idea not to badmouth a current or previous employer – it may feel like you’re proving your interest in a new role and even that it’s a shortcut to connecting with your interviewer, but it’s unprofessional and can create a negative atmosphere.
· Remember that you’re also interviewing them. You should be asking questions that will help you make a decision about whether or not to take the role, should it be offered to you. It often helps to prepare a list of questions in advance about what you would want to know about the role and organisation – the culture, the challenges of the role, what qualities people need to succeed within the organisation, even elements like corporate social responsibility. This will not only help you make a clearer decision, but will also show that you’re engaged and taking a strong interest in the organisation.
After the interview
Many people don’t realise that the interview doesn’t have to stop when you leave the room – it’s always a good idea to get in touch again after the interview, just as you would when meeting someone at a networking event, for example. Follow up with a polite thank you email, either directly to the interviewer or via your recruiter if you used an agency to secure the interview. This is a way of continuing the dialogue and shows that you enjoyed the meeting.
The basic aim of building rapport in your interview is to increase the impression that you think along the same lines as your interviewer, showing them that you share a similar professional outlook and way of working.
Ultimately though, it’s important not to forget that while trying to build rapport in an interview, you’re actually there to prove you can do the job too. Make sure your questions and responses demonstrate your relevant skills and experience – banter alone rarely gets someone a job.
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While interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience, building rapport can help you make a good impression.
Before the interview, do some research to find common ground and ensure to dress appropriately.
During the interview, consider mirroring body language, listen to what they’re saying, avoid talking about politics and religion, and ask relevant questions.
After the interview, send a thank you note as a means of continuing the conversation.