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Building Rapport in the Interview | The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication

Making a Good First Impression
From the time that you first enter the company’s facility where your interview will be held, be cognizant of the image you are projecting – make it one that is professional, poised & friendly. Send a message that you are in control and very confident. Interviewers form impressions based on what they see on the outside – at least initially. They take you at face value. Remember the old adage: “You never get a second chance to create a first impression.” Treat everyone you meet, from receptionists to CEOs, courteously and with respect. You never know who gets the vote on whether or not to hire you!

Building Rapport
We’ve talked about the importance of self-knowledge in your interview. Now, let’s talk about how you build rapport with your interviewer. Good chemistry with your interviewer is always a plus. You can’t always control this, but there are some steps you can take to maximize rapport.

First, try and relax. If you’re like most people, you’re nervous and anxious as you begin the interview. Try to control those emotions. Don’t let them see you sweat! Go for your run, do your work-out or listen to your favorite music prior to the interview to calm your nerves and clear your head.

Conveying a “relaxed energy” will sustain you through the interview and support that image of being confident, comfortable with the process and clearly engaged. Some successful techniques include breathing deeply, planting your feet firmly on the floor with arms comfortably at your sides, maintaining eye contact with your interviewer and being grounded [staying “in the moment”].

Second, think of the interviewer as a potential colleague or customer [as opposed to the person of power & authority]. This will level the playing field for you – at least psychologically. An interview progresses more smoothly when you feel “in sync” with the interviewer – when your chemistry is compatible. While you always want to strive to be yourself in the interview, having the skill to interpret the interviewer’s personality traits and communication style can provide you a real advantage. Sometimes referred to as Neuro-linguistic Programming [NLP], here’s how it works in the context of an interview:

You observe the interviewer for clues revealed by such qualities as her office surroundings, appearance, demeanor, speaking style, nonverbal language, etc.

You build rapport – chemistry – and a more favorable impression by mirroring the interviewer’s communication style as you respond to questions. This may require you to stretch or alter your innate style to more closely match that of the interviewer. For example, if your interviewer’s desk is neat and orderly, you can probably assume that he is organized and straightforward in is communication style. To the extent that you can tailor your responses in a logical and direct manner, the better they might be received by this type of interviewer.

If your interviewer’s appearance, nonverbal cues and speaking style seems casual and informal, then mirroring your responses to that style might be in order. The opposite would be true if your interviewer is reflective and serious in her demeanor and dress, which would suggest a more formal interaction.

This approach, though very effective, is not for everyone. It takes time to learn and master this approach. In the end, being able to “read” your interviewer’s style is not as important as being a good, attentive listener. Listening hard helps focus your response.

Third, adopting a consultative selling mindset, where you think of yourself as a consultant and the interviewer as your client, will help establish rapport as well as gain traction as being a solutions provider.

Fourth, think of your responses as an opportunity to collaborate with the interviewer, to experience “give & take” and, in the process, to learn more about what he or she is seeking in the best fit candidate. Ask for feedback on your response: “Did I address your question?” If the question posed is unclear or ambiguous, ask for clarification: “Could you rephrase that question, please?” This personalizes the interaction and increases rapport. It also shows respect for the interviewer and reinforces your intention of providing the desired information in a quality manner.

Nonverbal Communication
Let’s talk about nonverbal communication. Some experts will tell you that nonverbal communication is more important than verbal during the interview. Why? Because our nonverbal behaviors often sabotage our words. When there is contradiction between the two, credibility and rapport is damaged. When faced with a contradiction, interviewers typically trust what they see and not necessarily what they hear. As a whole, body language is subconscious, more spontaneous and less controlled than speech. Following are some tactics:

Voice: speak slowly and clearly with appropriate pauses, pitch, projection and intonation. Your tone should be friendly, polite, confident and positive. Take a deep breath before speaking to reduce stress. Honor silence. Don’t fall to the temptation of having to fill the void with words that may detract from your impact. Avoid sighs, “umms” and “urrs.” Practicing will help.

Facial expressions: maintain eye contact without staring. Smile. Nod occasionally. Avoid frowning.

Posture: stand tall. Stride with confidence. Gauge distance and personal space interviewer seems to prefer.

Gestures: firm handshake, arms down to side (not crossed over your chest, which connotes lack of interest or resistance).

Body Language: project sincerity, honesty and openness by leaning forward. Sitting on the edge of the chair, holding arms tensely or playing with a pen denote tenseness, or worse, boredom.

Don’t forget – body language works both ways! Observe the interviewer for clues as to how your responses are being received. If you find the interviewer looking at the clock, you need to ratchet it up a notch!!

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