How to Establish Rapport in a Virtual Interview

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There’s no way around it—interviews are nerve-wracking. Whether you’re an old pro or this is your first interview, sitting down with someone and explaining why you’re the perfect fit for their needs brings about some level of anxiety.

As you sit in the office lobby, your heart beating a bit quicker than normal, have you ever had all of your nerves quickly dissipate as soon as you’re greeted by your interviewer? Some people make you feel at ease immediately, and as you make small talk you realize just how much you have in common. While that’s the dream interview scenario, unfortunately it’s not always the case. Finding common ground and making small talk are both skills that help you build that rapport with someone.

But, since most interviews will be initially conducted via video for the foreseeable future, how do you establish that same feeling when you’re not actually in the same room? Here are a few ways to virtually build rapport.

Start Small

Small talk, or casual conversation, is called small for a reason. It’s not all that important, but it can make a big difference. For example, how would you feel if you walked into a store and instead of someone saying hello and asking how you were, you weren’t greeted at all? Probably not very welcome, so why would you want to buy something from there? In short, small talk puts people at ease, and while extended small talk with strangers isn’t fun for some, it is important for easing your way into a conversation with new people.

So, as you prepare for the interview, think of a few casual questions to ask the interviewer. It could be as simple as commenting on a recent event or asking how their weekend was. Or you could get lucky and as you’re researching the company, you see that you both went to the same college or grew up near each other. Whatever you decide to chat about, just make sure that you do, and bonus points for doing your research on them ahead of time.

The more video calls you do, the more comfortable you’ll be, but meeting someone for the first time virtually can be awkward. Don’t sweat any technical difficulties and have a few ideas for how to start the conversation. It’s likely they’ll be doing the same, so between the two of you, you can avoid long pauses or awkward silences and walk away from the interview feeling like you showed your best self.

Pay Attention to Expressions

Communication is made up of three things: words, body language, and tone. Of those three things, body language takes the majority. And while it may be easy to read in person, reading someone’s body language through a screen is a bit more complicated. It is, however, much easier than a traditional phone call.

During a video interview, try to mirror the same things you would be doing in a room with someone. Sit up straight, but nod and lean forward a bit when you agree with something. Tilt your head if you’re interested and smile when something is funny. These visual cues go a long way when reading how someone is feeling, so your interviewer will know when you agree with something or have something to add. Hopefully, their expressions will be apparent, too, so both of you can mirror each other’s positive body language, making it easier to connect and build a relationship.

Video calls, and interviews, are going to be the “new normal” for a while, so figuring out how to express yourself and be yourself virtually is paramount. So next time an interview rolls around and you prepare for the video call, remember to come armed with a few conversation starters and make your expressions known.

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