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5 Techniques for Instant Competitive Advantage

Establishing rapport during a job interview means building a mutual respect and likability between yourself and your interviewer. Whilst being liked by your interviewer won’t guarantee you get hired, it significantly improves your chances. Rapport building techniques empower you to connect with an interviewer and create an atmosphere of trust. In turn, you improve your chances of being liked, being remembered and getting the job.


Rapport building techniques focus on both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. Expect your interviewer to be more skilled in rapport building than you are. Interviewers often begin an interview with informal questions. Casual questions are designed by recruiters to help you relax and foster open communication during an interview. Such questions are an excellent example of a rapport building technique. Let’s look at 5 more techniques to give you a competitive advantage in your job interview.

Rapport Building Technique #1 - Dress Code

Wearing similar clothing to your interviewer builds instant rapport. If your interviewer is wearing a suit and tie, you will break rapport by wearing casual clothes. If your interviewer is a blue collar worker in jeans and steel-capped boots, a smart business-casual outfit would be more appropriate than a suit and tie. If you’re unsure, contact your prospective employer in advance to confirm appropriate attire for the job interview. We recommend you dress up, rather than dress down. For example, if you will be interviewed in a business-casual setting, you should wear smart clothing and consider wearing a tie. Interviewers are always impressed when you make a visible effort.

Rapport Building Technique #2 - Initial Greeting

It may seem obvious, but a warm smile and friendly handshake are often forgotten in the midst of interview nervousness. When you meet the interviewer, make eye contact and extend a friendly handshake. Smile and greet them with a “Hello, nice to meet you.” We recommend using their name if you know it. For example, “Hello, John. Nice to meet you.”

Tip: Use a firm handshake, but don’t squeeze too hard or too soft. A handshake that’s too hard can hurt, especially if the person is wearing rings. Inflicting pain is definitely not the first impression you want to create! A handshake that’s too soft creates an impression of low confidence and laziness. For best results, practice your handshake with a friend until it feels right.

Rapport Building Technique #3 - Mirroring

Mirroring is a rapport building technique advocated by Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) experts. Simply put, mirroring involves matching your own body language to the interviewer’s body language. The effectiveness of mirroring is based on the premise that people feel most comfortable around similar people. Here’s how to use mirroring to build rapport in your job interview:

  • Speech and Tone of Voice. When you speak, match the interviewer’s speech patterns. If they speak quickly, you speak quickly. If they speak slowly and calmly, aim to respond slowly and calmly. If their tone of voice is matter of fact and business like, imitate that. If they use a friendly, casual tone, follow their lead.
  • Body Language. To mirror your interviewer’s body language, carefully watch and mimic their behaviour. Match their sitting position, their facial expressions and hand gestures. Unfolded arms, open palms, a comfortable forward-sitting position and detailed responses send subconscious signals of confidence and willingness. Crossed legs, sitting too far forward and touching your face can all indicate nervousness and discomfort. It is estimated that 90% of communication is non-verbal, so being aware of your communication through body language can make a significant impact on your interview result.

Warning: To avoid offending your interviewer, mirroring must be subtle and careful. Remember, recruiters are often trained in NLP and/or rapport building techniques, so they will just as aware of the mirroring technique as you are. Don’t be patronising when using mirroring. Instead, be consciously caring and understanding. After all, your goal is to foster mutual respect, not gain power or influence.

Rapport Building Technique #4 - Establish Common Ground

In your personal life, common ground with friends might include a love of football, same-aged children or similar past experiences. It can be difficult to find areas of common ground in a job interview setting, but it you succeed, your interviewer will be more inclined to like and remember you. Pay attention to the following:

  • Informal Conversation. Most interviews include brief moments of small talk. Informal questions at the start of the interview are designed to help you relax; these are a great opportunity to discover common ground with your interviewer.
  • Head Nodding and Eye Contact. As your interviewer explains job responsibilities and asks questions, make eye contact and make a small nod to indicate you agree and have understood what the interviewer has said. Continue with a detailed response where appropriate. This establishes common ground in the current conversation.
  • Ask the Right Interview Questions. Make sure you thoroughly research and plan the questions you will ask during your interview. Carefully craft questions that align yourself with the interests of the interviewer. Whilst you could ask “what projects will I be working on?”, a better question would be “I understand this position is focused on cost-reduction in your department. How can I make this successful for you? What projects will I be working on?”. Notice this in-depth question focused more on the interviewer than you establishing a common goal between the two of you.

Just one shared interest can be enough to make you stand out from the crowd and be remembered. Without appearing desperate or pursuing inappropriate social conversation, do your best to make a common ground connection.

Rapport Building Technique #5 - “Fake It ‘til You Make It!”

Perhaps the easiest and most useful rapport building technique is to “fake ‘til you make it”. In other words, pretend you already have a great rapport with your recruiter. Greet your interviewer as you would greet a respected friend you trust and admire. Pretend you already have the job; speak as though you’re ready to learn and make a positive difference in the organisation.

By pretending you already have a good relationship, you will naturally exude warmth. You’ll display a more relaxed and open personality. This will be reflected in your facial expressions, tone of voice, posture and gestures.

Conscious rapport building during your job interview gives you a significant competitive advantage. Don’t use these techniques to be controlling, powerful, influential or persuasive. Instead, focus on positive outcomes such as memorability, open communication and an atmosphere of trust in the interview room. Use your new rapport building skills to inspire recruiters to have confidence in you.

Visit The Job interview section for more articles related to your job preparation.

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