You carefully iron your best outfit, clean your nails and brush your hair so you’re looking immaculate, give yourself plenty of time so you’re not late, and front up with equal parts nervousness and excitement. You throw your shoulders back and put on your best smile – you’re there to impress. First date? No, you’re heading into a job interview.
When meeting someone for that all-important first meeting, the way they appear on paper (or on their LinkedIn profile) doesn’t always match up with what you’re met with in real life. It’s not just a matter of ticking all the boxes – as with any relationship, it really comes down to nebulous qualities such as chemistry, rapport and connection.
Surveys have shown that the majority of interviewers base their final decision on ‘chemistry’ with the candidate. In fact, a study featured in the American Sociological Review suggests that employers are more likely to hire someone that they have more in common with, rather than the most skilled candidate. Directly applicable skills are still the most important criteria, but ‘fit with the organisation/culture’ comes a close second and has a huge influence on final decision-making, especially when it comes down to you and another equally skilled candidate.
So make sure you do everything you can to make the best impression possible and generate some of that magical ‘chemistry’. It could be what gets you the job!
One of the most important ways to establish rapport is to make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to. Not too much, of course, as staring too hard and too long will probably freak them out, but making eye contact will help you connect and demonstrate that you’re a straightforward, honest and confident person.
Smiling and being warm, open and friendly will go a long way towards creating chemistry – but don’t overdo it! Just try to relax and show your natural warmth.
Everyone likes to be addressed personally, so make an effort to remember your interviewer’s name, and make sure you get the pronunciation right!
Being a good listener is one of the best ways to establish rapport. Listen carefully to what your interviewer says and repeat or confirm points if appropriate. When it’s your turn to speak, be confident and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking relevant, intelligent questions based on what you’ve been told will show the interviewer that you’re both thoughtful and attentive.
Your body language can have a huge impact on how you are perceived during an interview. Sitting with an open and relaxed upright posture (no crossed arms) will facilitate rapport, and subtly mirroring the interviewer’s body language, facial expression, rhythm and tone will unconsciously increase the feeling of connection.
While you can learn specific techniques to help develop chemistry with your interviewer, anything that feels contrived or fake, or that smacks of insincerity, will only hurt your cause. Ultimately, you have to be yourself, and there’s no point getting a job based on false pretences. Sure, practise your job spiel and prepare your answers to possible interview questions, but be sincere, really think about what you’re being asked, and answer as thoughtfully and honestly as you can. That way, the rapport created will be real and hopefully lead to a job you love!