Rapport is the art of making someone feel comfortable and accepted. To create rapport, we need to know how to connect with others regardless of their age, gender, ethnic background, mood or the situation. This skill is never more important than in an interview, where someone’s immediate impression of you is critical. Creating a connection with your interviewer is likely to have a large impact on whether or not they decide to employ you.
Here are three tips on how to create rapport in an interview:
1. First impressions count
Even before you speak, your interviewer will be absorbing nonverbal clues about you. You will be judged by how you stand, walk, shake hands, smile and sit. Remember to smile when you first see your interviewer and establish and maintain eye contact. Be the first to say hello and extend your hand, as this will convey confidence and approachability, and do more listening than talking to begin with. This will make it clear from the outset that you have the personal attributes required of a good social worker.
The way you present yourself can also help influence a person’s impression of you. For example, dark clothing can suggest authority and lighter colours can suggest friendliness or a sense of humour. Social workers are expected to be highly professional, so keep your appearance low key and neat.
2. Take a genuine interest
Remember, the interviewer is a person. Visualise them as an important guest in your home; someone you are glad to see. You want to make them feel welcome and at ease. Your overall goal should be to understand them, rather than expecting them to understand you. You could ask them how long they have been at the organisation or whether they live locally.
3. Match and mirror
Watch two people who have good rapport and you will notice a sense of unison in their body language and the way they talk. Matching and mirroring is when you deliberately take on someone else’s style of behaviour. If done well, it can be a very powerful technique for building rapport in an interview. To do this, you could:
- Match the tone, speed and volume of their speech.
- Pick up on any key words or phrases they use and build these subtly into your conversation.
- Notice how the interviewer handles information. Do they like detail, or talk about the bigger picture? Feedback information in a similar way.
- Mirror their body posture and/or gestures.
Rapport using the sound of your voice and your eye contact pattern is the quickest and most useful way to begin. Copying gestures should be used rarely and don’t mirror the person exactly. For example, if the other person is sitting with arms folded across their chest, you may have yours crossed on your lap. That prevents people from thinking they’re being imitated.
Matching and mirroring must be carried out in a subtle way. If the process intrudes into the other person’s conscious awareness, they may become uncomfortable. Only mirror the other person for a few moments. Take time to practice this technique prior to your interview until you can use it without thinking.