Nowhere else is that more crystal clear than in the first moments of an interview. After all, that is the window for building rapport and having a real conversation with the prospective company.
Sure, this is a sliver of the time you spend with the employer. But it is also the critical moment where building rapport humanizes the conversation. That is, before the formal interview even begins.
But what are the best tips for building interview rapport?
Timing is Important
Usually, a small window exists from waiting to be taken back to the interview to actually being seated where you can set the tone of the conversation by an artfully-managed way of breaking the ice.
Remember: always shape the conversation around open-ended conversations, and not straight yes/no answers. Getting someone talking will help you build rapport and take the stiffness / formality out of the conversation.
The more interview rapport you build, the better connection you make, and employers are much more inclined to hire someone they know and like!
Reference Something that Happened to You Recently
It could be as simple as talking about the weather (sure, humdrum), but if you can fold it into something like:
“Boy, it sure has been hot lately… but in the winter, I am sure we’ll be remembering these days fondly. Have you had a chance to get out and enjoy the summer yet?”
Refer to a Recent News Article About the Company
It goes without saying that you should do your homework about the company, But anything you can do to connect something you read to translate into scoring points big-time. For example:
“Boy, I bet it’s busy around here! I just saw in the business journal yesterday that this company is expanding. How are you doing with all of this excitement?”
Express Your Sincere Excitement About the Interview
There’s nothing wrong with being excited to be there. Showing excitement is better than showing nervousness, so channel your energy into a positive emotion.
Breaking the ice by saying something along the lines of:
“Thank you again for meeting with me! I know you are interviewing other candidates, but I am thrilled for the opportunity to discuss with you how I can ______ for your company. This is going to be a great conversation!”
Drop Hints About Recent Activity
Draw the interviewer into relevant conversation. Yes, it is this simple:
“I’m so glad to be here! I don’t know about you, but this weekend was glorious, wasn’t it? I was out doing a run and realized that we are almost into September already, and I thought to myself, wow- where has the summer gone?”
Another example which demonstrates mental acuity:
“I’m very excited to be speaking with you today. Last week, I was attending a conference on _____, and based on what I know about this opportunity here at your company, I see some really amazing applications of some of the concepts presented.”
Proceed with caution. Only if you are a diplomatic humorist should you try to be funny. Some people simply don’t respond to humor so appropriate use is strongly cautioned.
A quick one-liner is a good way to build interview rapport. My favorite line is when I am being seated and they point out the chair. I go over to it, pat the seat, and say:
“Is this the hot seat? I hope it is good and warmed up, because I am ready!”
Then smile. That usually gets a chuckle, while at the same time conveying confidence and diffusing some of the interview tension.
Ask a Question
If you can insert a question into the short window before the session officially begins, you can learn a lot and again, build up some of that critical interview rapport. Be aware that any questions used for breaking the ice definitely need to be smart ones. Don’t resort to stupid ones like, “How many people work here?” – you should know that already from your pre-interview research.
But thinking strategically and asking targeted questions can help gain additional valuable insights into the interview and set the tone of the discussion. For example:
“I saw recently that this company won an award as a great place to work. What do you love about your job or working here?”
Identify and Mention an Object of Interest in the Room
Maybe a painting, sculpture, award, or something else. Mundane, perhaps. But it invites the interviewer to tell a story about the object. That takes the emphasis away from the scripted interview proper and starts a conversation. It can also provide more insights as to the company’s culture, history, or priorities.
Breaking the ice in an interview can open doors. It shows high emotional quotient and demonstrates superb social management skills.
So in your next interview, remember to take the lead in building interview rapport, and see where it takes you.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Pathfinder.
About the Author: Dawn Rasmussen, CMP is President of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, a provider of results-oriented résumé, cover letter, and job search coaching services. Dawn is also the official “Get the Job” columnist for One+ Magazine distributed to over 26,000 meeting professionals worldwide and Talentzoo.com, a job resource site for creative and marketing professionals. Dawn is also a career expert on Careerealism.com – a top 10 world-ranked career advice blog. Follow Dawn on Twitter!