Rapport is the connection between two people - the spoken and unspoken words that say “we are on the same page”. It is the art of making someone feel comfortable and accepted. To create rapport, you need to know how to connect with others regardless of their age, gender, ethnic background, mood, or the situation.
This skill is never more important than in an interview, where someone’s immediate impression of you is critical. Beyond the job description, employers are on the lookout for people who would be a “cultural fit” in the company, meaning someone who will fit in to the office culture.
Creating a connection with your interviewer is likely to have a large impact on how they evaluate your cultural fit – so learning the skill of creating good rapport should be one of your priorities as an interviewee. Here are some tips to get you started:
First impressions count
Whether we like it not, judgments are made about us by the way we look. These decisions will usually be made within the first few seconds of meeting with you. Even before you speak, your interviewer will be absorbing non-verbal clues about you. You will be judged by what you wear, how you stand, how you shake hands, how you smile, and how you sit. That’s why it’s important to plan your clothes, and even how you comb your hair before a meeting.
The way you present yourself can help influence a person’s impression of you. For example, dark clothing suggests authority while lighter colours suggest friendliness or a sense of humour. Your hair style might suggest sensible, cutting-edge, formal, or friendly, and your make-up can suggest glamorous or professional.
Take a genuine interest
Focus on the interviewer as a person and your overall attitude is likely to become more genuine. Your overall goal should be to understand them rather than expecting them to understand you.
However, don't be too friendly too quickly, or you may appear false. Instead, hold yourself back, and increase your level of curiosity. Remember to:
- Smile when you first see your interviewer
- Establish and maintain eye contact
- Be the first to say hello and extend your hand
- Deliver a sincere greeting
- Use the person’s name
Match and mirror
Matching and mirroring is when you deliberately take on someone else’s style of behaviour in order to create rapport – a way of becoming highly tuned to another person. If done well, this can be a very powerful technique for building rapport in an interview.
However, you must be careful not to overdo it. If the other person becomes aware of what you’re doing, it can backfire and make them uncomfortable and non-verbal. The key is to keep it subtle and don’t mirror the person exactly. If the other person is sitting with arms folded across their chest, you may have yours crossed on your lap. That prevents people from thinking they’re being imitated.
The best things to match include:
- Voice tone, speed, and volume
- Breathing rates
- Speech patterns – Pick up the key words or phrases your interviewer uses and build these subtly into your conversation. Notice how the interviewer handles information. Do they like detail, or talk about the bigger picture? Feed information back in a similar way.
- Rhythm of body movement and energy levels
- Body postures and gestures
It may come as a relief to know that you don’t have to mirror the other person for longer than a few moments. Once they become comfortable with you, you can actually start leading the nonverbal communication, and then they’ll start following you.
Take time to practice these techniques prior to your interview until you can use them easily without thinking.