How to Establish Rapport with Your Interviewer

Use these tips to know how to establish rapport.

If a job seeker does not establish a connection or build rapport with their job interviewer, that candidate will probably not get the job. Knowing how to establish rapport with someone you’ve just met who also may hold your future in their hands is not easy. Here are some suggestions for how to do so.

How to Establish Rapport with Your Interviewer

Learn as much as you can about the interviewer as possible ahead of time. Social media makes this kind of research much easier than it used to be. See if you can find the interviewer’s profile and learn about his or her interests and activities.

Seek Commonalities

Seeking out commonalities will help you know how to establish rapport with them. You can also use your network contacts in the interviewer’s organization to learn more about the interviewer. A few examples of commonalities can include:

  • Attending the same college
  • Hailing from the same region
  • Former members of the same fraternity or sorority
  • Rooting for the same sports team

Bring up those common interests in the early “small talk” portion of the interview. In most interviews, a bit of light conversation takes place before you and the interviewer get down to business. Use this time to bring up a common interest you learned about in your research. 

Use Nonverbal Cues

Use your nonverbals to optimize the initial meeting. When your interviewer first greets you, extend a firm handshake, and most importantly, give your biggest, warmest smile. Hiring managers often say the biggest aspect missing from interviews (and one that keeps them from hiring) is enthusiasm; smiling is the best way to show enthusiasm. Once the interview starts, continue using effective nonverbal practices – smiling, nodding to show you’re listening and making eye contact to help the interviewer feel connected with you.

Look Engaged

When asked to sit, position yourself slightly toward the edge of the chair. This advice is often given to candidates so they will appear eager, but it’s also a good tactic for showing the employer you are hanging on his or her every word. Some experts even suggest a “mirroring” technique used in sales in which the candidate subtly mirrors the interviewer’s body language. Such a technique must be used with care, however; and you may not want to try it unless you are well-practiced in the approach.

Look For Talking Points

Take advantage of your environment. If you didn’t have a chance to research the interviewer (or even if you did), look around his or her office for talking points. Does the interviewer collect things? Do you see sports memorabilia? These are all items that can spark some conversation that connects you, and helps you know how to establish rapport, especially if you have commonalities.

Utilize Storytelling

Utilize storytelling in your interview responses. Stories are memorable, relatable and make emotional connections. Describing your accomplishment, skills and strengths in story form (such as with a Situation, Action, Result format) will draw the interviewer in. Neuroscience research by Uri Hasson in 2012 shows actual “brain synching” between storyteller and listener, a perfect setup for connecting with an interviewer through stories. 

Ask Questions

Engage the interviewer when it’s time to ask questions. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, include one that integrates the interviewer; for example, ask what the interviewer likes about working at the organization or how he or she came to choose this company. Another tip of how to establish rapport is to bring the interviewer into your responses is to interject the interviewer’s name regularly into the conversation.

Keep it Light

Avoid controversy. Since you probably don’t know your interviewer’s political or religious views, the odds of offending by bringing up these taboo topics are enormous. The same goes for any controversial subject, including trashing former employers. The minute you say anything negative about a past boss, the interviewer will know that he or she may also be the subject of your trash-talking in the future.

The Takeaway

Overall, the best way to know how to establish rapport with your interviewer is to think of the interviewer as a relationship-building exercise. One reason rapport is so important is that the interviewer will likely be working with the candidate; it’s easier to work with people with whom we feel connected. Therefore, keep in mind the idea of relationship-building – and not just selling yourself – throughout the interview.

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