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Tips to Establish Interview Rapport

Ever felt like you did everything right during your initial screening interview, expect to receive a call back, only to not receive a callback, and wonder what went wrong?

New research shows that one particular element has a greater-than-expected impact on determining whether a candidate receives a callback: a candidate’s ability to convey interpersonal chemistry (aka, to establish rapport) within the first few minutes of a meeting.

The research studied the routines of successful bartenders, retail employees, stand-up comedians, and police investigators in order to dissect their techniques.

Tip 1: Maintain an upbeat attitude and looking for common interests

Service-sector employees who pay close attention to customers and engage them in pleasant, upbeat conversations immediately establish rapport by sharing a simple compliment—starting off by complimenting a customer’s watch or jewelry or asking a friendly question about their favorite sports, for example.

During an interview, pay similar attention to whether your interviewer is open to small talk, then start the conversation on a positive note. Safe starts include asking about the interviewer’s commute and or any other shared experiences (the weather for example, is always a safe starter and is also an “experience” that is shared).

Tip 2: Don’t shy away from vulnerability.

In an adversarial negotiation, it helps to step out of your position and find common ground with the other side. Police investigators and conflict mediators try to generate rapport with witnesses or suspects under adversarial conditions by opening up first. Skilled comedians immediately try to bond with their audience by opening up first, then trying to forge a sense of empathy that makes picking up on cues and offering come backs and jokes easier.

An interview should not feel as stressful, but the path between that first handshake and sitting down for the interview is a great opportunity to open up and show your personality by attempting some small talk (“I’m feeling better than the weather outside, that’s for sure”).

Tip 3: Do your homework.

If you learn that your interviewer hates small talk, of course you want to avoid it (similarly, if your interviewer is a devout Hawks fan, cracking a joke about them might not give you the response you want). Do your homework. What you find out can help you determine whether you should bypass the small talk or possibly determine the topic of your small talk.

In addition to company websites or LinkedIn, applications such as Crystal can help you analyze a profile and determine personality type. Assessing whether you will be interviewing with a task-oriented person who doesn’t like to waste time or a more personable individual who cares more about how your personality would fit in. Information collected from diligently doing your homework can help you tailor your approach.

While there is no silver bullet to establish perfect rapport every single time, keeping these tips in mind and actively practicing before an interview will increase your confidence, thereby putting the ball in your hands to establish positive rapport.

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