Quickly building a rapport with your interviewer using small talk is the most crucial factor in ensuring your interview is successful, new research has discovered.
A recent study by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta confirmed just how important making a good first impression is - after 163 mock interviews, interviewers were asked to rate applicants' competence after a few minutes of small talk and then again after 12 job-specific questions.
The research found that the candidates who’d successfully built a connection with their interviewers from the start received higher scores overall than those who failed to build an initial rapport, even if they did equally well in the job-related questions.
“An applicant’s ability to spark rapport seems to have a unique influence on whether he or she gets the job,” lead study author Dr Brian W. Swider told the Wall Street Journal.
The ability to create a connection with a stranger is a real skill and one that’s essential in an array of professions, from bartenders to policeman, and there’s a lot we can learn from these people if we want to ace our job interviews.
Marketing analyst Christina Oswald believes that the social skills she developed whilst bartending at college helped her in a job interview: first, she makes sure to work out whether her interviewer is open to small talk before then engaging in a pleasant chat about shared experiences, for example commutes.
Finding common ground is a tactic also employed by police and investigators - when conflict-resolution expert and Columbia University researcher Aldo Civico was struggling to get anything out of a frosty guerrilla leader in a Colombian prison, all it took was finding a shared interest, Italian cooking, for the man to open up.
The few minutes between the first handshake and sitting down to start your interview can be not only the trickiest but also the most important when it comes to making a good impression.
But Clayton Fletcher, “chief comedy officer” of strategic communications firm Peppercomm, in New York, believes it’s a great time to show your personality.
Making a joke can be a really effective way to bond with your employer, as Fletcher and Peppercomm CEO Steve Cody found recently when walking down a long hill with a prospective client:
“This is great, I’m not going to have to get my cardio in today after all,” Cody joked. The client laughed and their relationship was off to a great start.
Another good way to make a connection with someone is to do your research on them beforehand - if you find a common interest, your interview is more likely to warm to you, remember you and ultimately hire you.
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