Interviewing can be an intimidating experience that renders many job seekers tongue-tied. However, new research shows that applicants who make small talk or find a commonality with the interviewer during the first few minutes of the meeting are more successful than those who don’t.
The researchers conducted 163 mock interviews and rated the candidates on how well they did in two areas: building rapport during the initial three minutes of conversation, and their responses to 12 questions about the job. The results showed that those who had initially built a degree of trust with the interviewer scored higher overall than those who had answered the questions equally well but had not created that initial rapport.
The researchers concluded that candidates should find common ground with an interviewer as soon as possible: The moments between the initial handshake and the beginning of the interview can be the sweet spot during which that rapport is established.
But how to do this if you’re not a natural? One of the ways job seekers can work on this skill is to practice outside of interviews, says the study’s lead researcher. Chatting with a barista while ordering coffee or a sales clerk when shopping are great ways to learn how to build a connection quickly. Another way to prepare for those initial moments when achieving rapport is so important is to conduct research about the organization or interviewer and ask a question that gets things rolling immediately.
What are some topics you can bring up to start an informal conversation prior to the beginning of a formal interview?
How do you think the ability to chat informally can positively affect not just your performance in interviews, but your career?
Why do you think some firms help their employees learn to build rapport by having them work with comedians?
Hiring managers advise job seekers to avoid the following slip-ups when interviewing.
Treating receptionist or other lower-level staff poorly. Consider the moments before meeting with the hiring staff as a pre-interview. Many hiring managers consult with staff about your behavior before and after the interview.
Arriving poorly groomed. Make sure you look squeaky clean from head to toe. Go easy on the perfume and neatly manicure your nails.
Choosing inappropriate attire. Dress for success. Knowing what to wear shows you understand workplace expectations.
Delivering long, rambling answers. Employers want to see that you are articulate. Practice answers before an interview so you can give concise responses.
Lacking authenticity. While everyone understands an interviewee needs to be upbeat, hiring managers want to see the real you. Do not be slick or sound hackneyed.
Underselling accomplishments. First-time job seekers often undersell their strength as a candidate. Be ready to talk about how you will make a contribution to the organization.
Failing to give credit to collaborators. Show the hiring manager how you contributed to a team project by explaining your role without taking too much credit from other team members.
Demonstrating poor understanding of the organization. Once you’ve landed an interview, the organization will expect you to have performed research about it and its products. Not doing so is the consummate no-no.
Lacking energy. Body language such as slumping in the chair or a monotone voice translates to disinterest. Make sure you make eye contact and are actively engaged.
Failing to ask relevant questions. Prepare questions that illustrate your understanding of the job and the industry so you appear interested. If you do not, the hiring manager could easily interpret it as a lack of interest in the position.
Why is it important to be respectful and kind to staff of any level?
What are ways you can “be authentic” without appearing overeager or giving yourself too much credit for work you collaborated on?
What kinds of specific questions could you prepare that would illustrate your interest in a given industry?