Every job candidate, especially if going for a sales position, hopes to click with an interviewer, creating the rapport that will result in a job offer. But getting an interviewer to like you is trickier than you might think. Trying to act a certain way or say all the right things will only get you so far and can even backfire. It's your ability to relate to your interviewer that creates rapport, says Earl Taylor, PhD, a New York-based 30-year employee and master trainer at Dale Carnegie & Associates.
When rapport is strong, the give-and-take of interviewing creates a mutual relationship. When rapport is weak or missing, it's more likely that you won't get hired, argues Taylor in an article published by Selling Power magazine. That's why learning how to build and maintain rapport should be at the top of every job hunter's list of critical interpersonal skills. Here are Tayler's tips for creating such a relationship:
Don't Go for the Obvious
Some job seekers mistakenly believe they can build rapport by opening the conversation with a compliment, such as something bland about a family photo, an autographed baseball, the view, etc. The problem with this approach is that it's trite. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who have entered that office have already used these obvious conversation starters. Another common error is to begin the conversation by mentioning a shared cultural experience, such as a recent sporting event. While such a conversation can build a mutual interest, it's not easily redirected to your ability to contribute your skills to the organisation.
Open with a Relevant Comment
Obvious ploys suggest to a prospective employer that you haven't researched the company and are just winging it. It's more effective to open with a business-related remark or a question that builds immediate momentum toward your goal of getting hired and fulfilling the employer's needs.
For example, you might begin an interview with a technically oriented manager by mentioning you noticed she recently presented a paper at a conference. Then ask a question indicating your interest in what the manager had to say. If available, check out the interviewer's biography. You might remark, for instance, that you noticed from her bio that her previous experience was in a different industry -- and then ask what's different about being a leader where she is now.
Ultimately, the specific content of your initial remark is less important than what making it demonstrates about you as an individual and how you could contribute as an employee. The hidden message, and the rapport-building power, of the opening remark is that you care enough about this employment opportunity to make the extra effort to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Focus on the Interviewer as a Person
Your overall attitude is also essential. When you first meet a prospective employer, visualize that person not as an inquisitor sitting in judgment, but as an honored guest in your home. If you're like most people, when you welcome guests into your home, you are glad to see them, and you want to make them feel welcome and at ease.
While the specifics of what you might say to an interviewer will be quite different from your conversation with a houseguest, the motivation and attitude behind the words should be the same. Just as you graciously do your best to make your guest comfortable, when you meet with an interviewer, find it within yourself to be truly grateful for the opportunity to meet this individual.
However, don't try to be too friendly too quickly, or you may come off as phony. Instead, hold yourself back, and increase your level of curiosity. Be interested in the interviewer as a person, and let the rapport emerge naturally during the conversation.