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Establishing Rapport with Interviewers

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Making a good impression on your interviewer requires more than dressing sharply, polishing your shoes and being polite. From the moment your interviewer sees you, you've begun the elusive process of connecting to establish rapport.

Studies show that people tend to remember events better when they are linked with an emotional impression. Making a positive, memorable impression on your interviewer depends on your ability to connect with your interviewer in a positive way.

It helps if your personalities click and you both have something in common. But, with some practice, you need not rely on that to establish a good rapport with your interviewer.

For example, at a minimum, you can expect that your interviewer wants you to understand and appreciate her goals, concerns, position, expectations and needs when she speaks to or asks questions of you. 

You can generate good vibes and emotions when you actively listen to your interviewer. This does not mean that you need to ask her about her childhood or greatest fears. Your interviewer does not need you as a confidant. She just needs to feel like you are an attentive and engaged interviewee.

So, when you find yourself facing your interviewer across a table, you can be certain she wants you to listen and respect her. Demonstrating that you do just might cinch the job for you.

The active listening skills you can employ to connect with your interviewer are not unique, but they are seldom used. (Think of the last time someone gave you undivided, empathetic attention for an hour!) In some ways these skills are an art. But, you can develop the skills with practice. 

Use empathetic body language. 

Both your words and body language will affect whether or not you establish a connection with your interviewer. When you meet with your interviewer, show that you are confident, trusting, open, attentive and eager, but restrained. All of this can be quickly and subliminally communicated in a simple handshake. When meeting, immediately offer a firm handshake to your interviewer.

But make sure that your hand is straight out, perpendicular to the floor. If you extend your hand with your palm facing down, you're indicating psychologically that you need to be in control. If you extend your hand with your palm facing up, you're indicating that you're overly docile. Extend your hand with your palm relatively flat, so that you make full contact palm-to-palm with your interviewer's hand. If you cup your hand, you're indicating that you mistrust your interviewer by lack of touch.

Likewise, your posture throughout the interview indicates whether you are open and attentive or withdrawn from your interviewer. For example, leaning back in your chair indicates boredom or insolence. Instead, sit up straight and lean forward just slightly, facing your interviewer directly. Crossing your arms over your chest indicates that you are defensive or closed-minded. Instead, keep your arms open. Fold your hands in your lap if you don't know what to do with them, but don't nervously wring them.

Eye contact is crucial. Look your interviewer in the eye when you are speaking and listening. Not making eye contact or glancing way too often indicates lack of confidence or honesty. But, to avoid giving your interviewer the impression that you are drilling through her with a transfixed gaze, occasionally glance away to the right or left.

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