Building Rapport at a Job Interview with the Interviewer

On first consideration, it might seem that job appointments are logical and analytical, being a matter of matching a vacancy’s criteria with the experience and skills offered by the candidates.

As all the applications are screened, the interviewer ticks boxes for all the criteria that the applicant matches. The job is eventually awarded to the candidate who achieves the highest number of ticks.

Unsurprisingly, filling a vacancy is not so simple. While criteria clearly need to be matched – this is why you have to spend time researching and preparing your application – there is a less obvious dimension to making appointments.

Ultimately, while these criteria drive the short-listing and interview process, jobs are awarded to the person that the interviewer likes most at the interview stage, whether or not they are the most qualified.

For this reason, it is important that you understand the reasons and needs for establishing a rapport with the interviewer, as it will bear a major influence on your chances.

The Employer’s Concerns

Think about the five concerns that direct the employer during the recruitment process:

(1) Can the candidate do the job?

(2) Is the candidate willing to do the job?

(3) Will the candidate fit into the organisation?

(4) Will we be able to manage this candidate?

(5) Can we afford to pay this candidate?

Of these, your CV, cover letter and interview performance can directly address and provide evidence for the first and third points.

Answers to the all important second and fourth points, however, while influenced by your application, come largely down to the interview itself and the employer’s opinion of your character.

By establishing a rapport or positive bond with the interviewer, you are directly affecting their answer to points (2) and (4).

If the interviewer likes you, it is very hard for a candidate with better qualifications, who they do not like, to be offered the position ahead of you.

Demonstrate your Personal Integrity

One of the first reasons for starting to like someone is that you can trust them.

If the interviewer decides early in the interview that you are trustworthy, many of their anxieties about taking a risk will be calmed and you will be on the way to establishing rapport.

Establishing a rapport does not mean trying to be the interviewer’s best friend. This is a formal situation, so attempting personal niceties (such as commenting on a photograph or souvenir in the office) is best avoided.

It may well make the interviewer cringe and think that you do not respect them. Likewise, do not start by referring to the big football game last night, or similar. Your thoughts may be seen as irrelevant.

Keep your early comments relevant to the organisation, whether comment or question. You might refer, for instance, to a recent industry event.

Whatever it is, the subject needs to be conducive to your being selected. Not only will you sound informed, but the interviewer will hopefully perceive you as friendly and approachable.

Think of the interviewer as a person, rather than a challenge or adversary. You can be conversational, although this situation is, of course, different to a normal conversation.

If there is more than one interviewer, you can be friendly but courteous with whomever you are talking to at that moment. The more interested you are in them, the more likely it is that the rapport will grow naturally.

Positive Body Language

How you present yourself is just as important as what you say. Your aim is for the interviewer to see you as confident, attentive, honest, open and willing.

Your handshake, says much about you. Try to keep your hand flat and straight as you offer it, with the clasp itself firm but not overly so.

If you are prone to sweaty hands when under stress, try to wash them with cool water before entering the interview.

The way you sit conveys a great deal. Do not lean back, as you may appear bored or even insolent. Sit up straight or lean forward slightly, showing interest.

Never cross your arms, as this looks defensive or mistrusting. If you’re not sure what to do with your hands, practice holding them in your lap.

Maintaining good eye contact is another way of establishing trust. Do not look at the floor or the walls when answering questions, although it is alright to glance away and then come back.

Mirror the interviewer’s expressions (to a point!). Respond to a smile with a smile, or a concerned look with the same. Do not over do it though.

Be a Good Listener

There are ways to show that you are listening and being attentive. Nodding is an obvious one. This is known as ‘active listening’.

Without doing it to excess, you can also make ‘listening noises’: “hmm”, “yes”, “I see”. Never interrupt when you do this, though.

Everyone uses these tactics in normal conversation without realising it.

What you are doing is accentuating them to ensure that the interviewer knows that you are a good listener – this will assist with their concern, “Will we be able to manage this candidate?”

Another sign of active listening is to repeat a phrase from the interviewer’s previous sentence. This shows that you have heard and understood them. Do this carefully though, as you do not want to slow down the pace of the interview.

Providing Reassurance

Ultimately, what you are doing is providing the interviewer with reassurance. There is a huge risk in making an appointment.

By showing yourself to be trustworthy, likeable, willing and good at communicating, you dramatically reduce the employer’s risk and considerably improve your chances of being offered the job.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Managing Director.
Bradley CVs Ltd.

21 responses to “Building Rapport at a Job Interview with the Interviewer”

  1. Hi Akinsinya,

    You (and anyone else) are welcome to put in a link from your own blog / website to any of our posts on our blog or to link to the blog’s home page itself (

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    Paul Bradley.

    Bradley CVs Ltd.