Building Rapport with Personal Conversation

One of the most important things to do in an interview is to build rapport. I led a session last week at AYE, focused on conversations (not specifically interviews). One of the more memorable things I said is that you need to be personal but not intimate.

A participant asked, “What is personal but not intimate?” I explained that personal is about you, and intimacy is something you might see or do in the shower. (Ok, that was not one of the most articulate explanations I've ever given. You get 5 minutes to laugh and then please keep reading.)

The problem with small talk is that it's not personal. “How about those Red Sox” or talking about the weather is something we could do with a complete stranger. But sharing little anecdotes from your life is personal. “I returned to gym yesterday morning after a three-week travel period. I'm surprised I'm not sore today.” That's personal. Many of us have felt the soreness of pushing too hard when we start our regular workouts again. Some of us have felt guilty about not being sore–did I push hard enough yesterday? That's a personal comment that allows us to build rapport. It may not be the right topic of conversation. But it's a start, and suggests a topic for the other person.

If you have a minute or two of rapport-building talk, you've set the stage for a successful conversation, whether that is an interview or any other conversation.

5 Replies to “Building Rapport with Personal Conversation”

  1. True sometimes but not always. When you are in a customer supplier role that kind of approach can be seen as a ‘technique’ by experienced people and put their backs up.

    if you used a comment like the one mentioned to me it would not break the ice, but irritate.

    So I believe you need a toolbox of techniques to be applied judiciously when you understand your colleagues / customers. That kind of rapport tends to come after you have worked together a little and know and trust each other, it then becomes social grooming.

    I built up a close rapport with a group of customers recently only AFTER I had shown I could deliver some value and had established credibility.

    Of course, different cultures have different attitudes, I am from and in Britain and its true we are somewhat more reserved than Americans (I lived in the US for four years as well).

  2. I agree 100% with what you have recently stated in your post. If you want to build rapport the first thing you should do is:

    Identify what makes the other person tick.

    I have become fascinated with this topic and have searched the Internet for articles and products surrounding this important yet rarely discussed gem of our social awareness.

    A great product, which I have purchased, is called Networking Note Cards. I highly rec anyone looking to build their rapport skills to check it out.

    All the best!

  3. Terrific idea. Too often interviewers are not trained on how to interview. Building rapport is the first step. It takes practice. Candidates are nervous. Look at the resume, see if there is a common bond between you. If not find a way to put the candidate at ease. Some people can’t talk about themselves. Ask them what others would say about them. Make that connection and you will get a better interview and have a clearer insight into the candidate.

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