How to Build Instant Rapport in an Interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

If you’ve ever felt instantly comfortable with a recruiter, you’ll know it’s got a lot to do with rapport. According to its definition, rapport is ‘a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well’. You might think that’s difficult to achieve with someone you have just met, but it may be simpler than you think.

There are several strategies you can employ to help. These include making a good first impression, being prepared, taking an interest, and ensuring the interviewer sees how you ‘fit’ their organisation.

It is well-known that we are naturally attracted to people who are similar to ourselves. When you build a good rapport with someone, the similarities are emphasised and the differences are minimised – which is a great basis for a successful interview. Here are some strategies you could use:

Make a Good First Impression: Whether you agree or not, the interviewer will make some initial judgements about you before you even speak. These ideas will be formed within the first few seconds of seeing you. Give yourself the best possible chance of making a good first impression by arriving on time, or a little early so you’re not flustered or rushed. Dress neatly and make sure you are well groomed. Research the company and work out what attire is most appropriate. Look the interviewer in the eye, use their name, smile and greet them warmly and sincerely. Shake hands firmly.

Show Your Interest in the Role: Research the company and role before the interview so you can demonstrate your knowledge and interest during the interview. Ask questions, comment on a new product/service or recent announcement. Be prepared to talk about yourself. The whole process is about YOU and YOUR suitability for the role. Spend some time brainstorming strengths, weaknesses, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked about yourself, you have something to say. Focus on achievements you made in current or previous roles and demonstrate how you handle different scenarios.

Listen More and Talk Less: There isn’t much worse than a candidate who rambles without really saying anything. Concentrate on the interviewer and listen carefully to the questions they ask. If you find yourself becoming distracted, make an effort to re-engage with the interviewer. Maintain eye contact, lean forward in your chair and sit up straight – don’t slouch or lean back. This will take more effort and concentration and help you to remain alert. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers beforehand, so you have an idea of how you might respond to different questions.

Match Your Body Language: Successful rapport often stems from matched body language which encompasses all forms of nonverbal communication such as facial expressions, energy levels, posture, eye contact, hand gestures and general body position and movement. The technique of “matching” someone else’s body language can be used to support your story and more quickly establish the idea in the recruiter’s mind that you are a ‘good organisational fit’. It can be a powerful technique in an interview but could also be perceived as mimicking or intimidating by the recruiter if done in an obvious way. Simply take note of the recruiter’s voice tone, speed and volume as well as their energy and enthusiasm levels, body posture and gestures. This is a good place to start. Try to also pick up on the recruiter’s level of detail when answering questions – are they detail or big picture oriented? Incorporate your observations and provide your responses in a similar way.

Establishing instant rapport is something that can be done with practice. Do you lack confidence or are you nervous during interviews? This can create a barrier to achieving rapport which is why preparation is key. Research the organisation and the role, prepare standard responses to questions you know you’ll get asked, and watch your body language.

If you would like an Interview Coach to help you prepare for an upcoming job interview, please see our Interview Training and Coaching Services.