Interview advice: how to build a great rapport with an interviewer

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For almost all of us, interviews are a fact of life. Often the anticipation and nervousness that we may experience beforehand are worse than the interview process itself.

However, there’s no question that the two keys to interview success are – preparation and confidence. And there’s also no doubt that being prepared can make you feel more confident during the interview itself.

Job interview advice and preparation breeds confidence

If you go into an interview cold without having researched the company and questions that you may be asked, it will have a double negative effect, because it will make you feel unprepared, which will in turn impact your confidence and how you come across.

Conversely, if you go into the interview having prepared properly, it could have a double positive effect, because you’ll feel ready to face any question that’s thrown at you, which will make you feel more confident.

The more confident you feel, the more relaxed you’ll be in the interview. If you go into an interview without being prepared or feeling confident, this will come across to your interviewer in your body language and tone of voice, so you could scupper your chances of progressing almost instantly.

Do your research about the company and interviewer

Keep an eye on the company’s website to see what it’s done recently, as many companies will have some kind of section for press releases or a company blog. This will give you something to draw upon in the interview.

Similarly, if you know who’s going to be interviewing you, try and do some research about them or look at their LinkedIn profile. This will help you understand what common ground exists between you – though don’t freak them about by looking like you know all about their life.

Treat your interviewer like a friend

Once piece of advice that’s always served me well is to treat the interviewer like a friend. This doesn’t mean being casual with them or calling them mate. Instead, it just means being relaxed, welcoming and easy-going, which you can still do while being professional.

After all, they’ll be thinking about what it would be like to work with you on a daily basis. If you stay overly corporate in your approach and demeanour, while you may come across as very professional, you may not come across as a good fit for their company.

“Hire the attitude”

Something that’s becoming more and more prevalent for recruiters is hiring people who have the right attitude and helping them to develop their skills, rather than hiring simply based on skills alone. This is quite a modern approach to recruitment and is likely to be particularly favoured by small to medium-sized employers.

Key to showing that you have the right attitude and personality is showing that can build a rapport with anyone. So how can you actually show that you have the right attitude, or at the very least leave a lasting positive impression? Doing the following is a good start.

Get into the right frame of mind before you even meet the interviewer. Think of them as a friend, or even a guest, that you’re happy to see and want to make feel welcome. If you view them in a positive light, rather than a negative one, you’ll come across as welcoming.

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Present yourself properly. If you’re interviewing at a large corporation, a traditional suit and tie is probably in order. If you’re told to be smart-casual, you could probably get away with wearing a shirt and tie, or a shit with a cardigan. Even if you’re told that it’s completely casual, a nice shirt is preferable to a t-shirt. You can’t really go wrong with a nice crisp shirt.

Focus on your every movement. It’s not natural to think about your every movement in normal situations – but then, interviews aren’t really normal situations. Focus on how you walk – walk with authority and purpose – shake hands openly and firmly, make sure you smile and make eye contact, ensure you don’t fidget or act awkwardly.

Speak clearly and in a friendly tone. Be open and engaging, ask them questions about how they are and answer theirs. These introductory questions are likely to be fairly standard – how are you, how was your journey etc – but don’t just answer them with one-word answers (don’t waffle either) and remember, these may be soft questions, but they’re still part of the interviewer’s overall impression of you.

Doing the above will have got you off to a good start and created an initial rapport – and it’s the early stages of an interview that are arguably the most critical. Now it’s time to drive home your advantage.

Body language

Body language can be a clear indicator of feelings. It can also play a key role in your success. Be conscious of how you’re behaving and how your interviewer behaving. Make sure you’re not doing anything that indicates nervousness or distraction, like fidgeting or moving your hands around too much or moving around in your seat. Also, if you can, try and subtly match their body language to make them feel at ease and in tune with you. Keep natural levels of eye contact, notice how they’re sitting and act in a similar (but not identical) way and pay attention to what they’re saying.

The interview doesn’t stop there: what to do after

While it’s not likely to be a huge game changer, it’s courteous to send a “thank you” follow up after the interview. This can be as an email. Thank them for their time and also briefly touch upon elements of the interview that you found interesting or that jumped out at you.

If you incorporate all of these features into your interview, you’ll have a great chance of coming across well. Just remember to answer their questions well too!

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