Have your dream job interview coming soon? Worried about gaps on your resume or lack of experience? If so, it’s time to hone your communication skills and focus on building rapport with your interviewer. People hire people they like. The best way to overcome a lackluster resume is to leave a first impression that resonates and guarantees you’re remembered.
Quickly establishing a relationship with your interviewer gives you an edge over other applicants. Companies are more likely to hire someone with exceptional communication and interpersonal skills that fit within their corporate culture than an awkward, overqualified, know-it-all. Hiring managers know it’s easier for a new employee to learn the tasks of a certain position than it is to teach manners, team work, & cooperation.
In an interview, focus on a strong introduction, positive body language, & building a genuine conversation. If you prepare properly, and focus on the above components, you can secure your new job over more qualified candidates by showcasing your charismatic personality.
Step 1) Preparation Is Key
Whatever you do, don’t take the “let’s wing-it” approach to your interview. As Alexander Graham Bell says, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. Do your homework on the company and the interviewer ahead of time.
Has the company recently signed any new deals, or significant partnerships? What challenges can you help the company overcome? Who will you be interviewing you? Where are they from? What are their interests?
The more you have prepared ahead of time in terms of your questions, yes you should have questions for them, and your polished answers, allows you to be more present in the moment and focus on building a relationship rather than worrying about what to say.
Step 2) The Introduction: Important, But Not a Deal-Breaker
Your impression starts the moment you enter the room. Stand up tall, enter with confidence, shake hands, give eye contact, and greet the interviewer by name. Although we worry about nailing the first impression, a study from Old Dominion, Florida State, & Clemson University found that only 5% of hiring managers made a decision on a candidate within the first five minutes. However, nearly 60% of hiring managers made their decision within the 5-15 minute range.
Even if you bungle your first impression, stay confident and focus on finding common ground, making small talk, & being engaged in the conversation. You can always use a genuine compliment to get yourself back on track.
The best compliments are on items they have had to work toward. For example, a compliment on their expensive shoes or luxury watch, shows that you recognize class, and gives them an opportunity to show off and discuss something they are proud to own.
Step 3) What Does Your Body Have to Say?
Body language has an incredible ability to betray & derail even the most practiced interviewee. You might be saying all the right words but if your body language doesn’t match accordingly, your rapport building process will be an uphill battle.
Only 7% of effective communication is verbal. Meanwhile, your body language counts for 55% and tone of voice for 38%. Sit up straight, focus on maintaining eye contact, & lean slightly forward when talking to show maximum engagement.
The key to mastering body language is to simply be aware that your body talks just as much as your mouth. You may be so focused on the conversation that you don’t realize you’ve crossed your arms, touched your face repeatedly, or have been fidgeting with your hands the entire time.
Mirror the body language of your interviewer. If they smile and lean forward, do the same. If they cross one leg over another, follow suit. When we are comfortable with another person we inadvertently mirror their actions. Use this to your advantage and kick-start the process by consciously mirroring their actions.
Remember, what your body says is picked up by others in milliseconds, long before you get the chance to open your mouth. Focus on displaying calm, confident, & positive body language to build instant rapport.
Step 4) Find Your Conversation Flow
Don’t be afraid to inject your personality into the interview. Be authentic with your responses and find common ground to build a relationship. Use small talk to escape the Q&A format of the interview and shift the dialog toward a guided conversation.
Allow the interviewer to lead the conversation but remember, the best interviews are a two-way dialogue. When possible, use effective stories to validate your answers. When we listen to a story, more areas of the brain are activated and we retain more information.
In your preparation stage, prepare short, concise, stories that highlight your strongest attributes. Simple stories are better than complex, long-winded narratives so rehearse ahead of time to avoid rambling. Avoid banal small talk topics and focus on topics that shift the interview toward a guided conversation.
Step 5) Follow Up
Jot down any notes from the conversation after your interview. What were some of the interests of your interviewer? What interesting topics came up during the interview? What areas of common ground did you find?
After 3-4 days, reach out to show gratitude and provide value. Write a thank-you email and send a handwritten note in the mail. Thank them for their time, and provide value from a topic that arose during the interview. For example, if you talked about favorite foods during the interview, a restaurant recommendation based on their interests shows you were engaged and makes the interviewer think, “I would like this thoughtful person on my team.”
Don’t overcomplicate or force the rapport building process. Be prepared, show confidence, find commonalities, and provide value in your follow up. The goal is to use genuine conversation to highlight your best qualities and stand out for your preparation and thoughtfulness.
An interview doesn’t have to be an intimidating situation. Use the opportunity to show your personality, intelligence, and social skills. Remember, they have your resume, they know your technical skills, and they’ve initiated an interview. This is the time to show them you are someone they can’t live without.