Building rapport is an essential step to interview success, explains Nick Ronald

Working in support, you will be used to talking to lots of different people. However, no matter how confident you feel, a job interview tends to bring out nerves. After all, a lot hinges on how well you present yourself. Ten years ago, I was struggling to get the job I wanted, so I joined Toastmasters International to improve my public speaking skills; yes, being interviewed is a form of public speaking. I learnt a lot and got the job I wanted. Here is what I wish I’d known:

Why Do We Fear Job Interviews?

Fear or anxiety of job interviews is very common, and job interviews are a form of public speaking.

We fear job interviews because they tap into many of our most common fears:

Fear of the unknown

We have no idea what the person interviewing us will be like, what questions they will ask or how difficult the questions will be.

Fear of being judged

We’ll be facing one or more people sitting across the table, judging us, forming an opinion about our suitability based on the answers we give.

Fear of rejection

With interviews, it’s either acceptance or rejection. You either get the job or you don’t. So, it’s natural to be fearful of rejection.

Fear of selling yourself

Selling is hard, and selling yourself is the hardest thing for most people to ‘sell.’

You can reduce your fear by preparation and practice. The best way to build a great relationship and influence people is to create rapport with them. In other words, create a connection, a feeling of mutual understanding, of seeing common ground and liking and respecting each other. Building rapport is an essential step to interview success.

First Impressions

We have all heard the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover.’ Well, we all do that, and we will always do that. It is human nature to make an instant first impression of someone. In a job interview, you need to make sure that first impression is a positive one.

As soon as you walk into the room, make sure you walk purposefully up to the interviewer(s) or, if it is a Zoom interview, be ready for when you first see them. Shake hands, if appropriate, with a firm relaxed grip. And, most important of all, look them in the eye and smile. Throughout the interview you need to make sure you maintain a natural, even eye contact and smile. Both of these body language actions are the most obvious way people will judge our confidence and build trust in us.

The most important part of any public speaking is the beginning and the end. You must aim to change their state. Through your words and actions, you want to make them feel excited to have found you.

Body Language

Your body language should act to reinforce the rapport you create. When you listen to a question from one of the interviewers, turn slightly to face the person you are talking to and nod your head. This gives the signal that ‘I understand, I agree and am listening to you.’

Using hand gestures can help to reinforce what you are saying if they are natural and not excessive. Generally, open-palm gestures are good and encourage communication. You should avoid any pointing or clenched first gestures, which can be seen as arrogant or aggressive.

Use Their Name

Using the interviewer’s name is a good way to establish rapport, as we are automatically programmed to react to our own name. Imagine the difference between the answer, ‘Well, there was one time, when I worked at…’ and then the same phrase, but with their name: ‘Well, Jamie, there was one time, when I worked at…’

I, Never We

You are selling yourself and your brilliant executive support skills, so never give other people the credit for work you have done or your achievements. The interviewers don’t care what your team or colleagues achieved, only what YOU achieved. So, with every single example, you must say: ‘I created,’ ‘I managed,’ ‘I achieved.’ It is always I and NEVER we.

STAR Approach

It is impossible to talk about job interview success without a reminder of the all-important STAR method for answering competency questions which you are very likely to encounter in any interview:

Situation: Briefly set the scene; what was the problem you had to solve or improve?
Task: What were the challenges, what approach did you take?
Action: What specific actions did you take to solve the problem and improve the situation?
Result: Demonstrate the successful outcome of your actions (and how you measured the success of the outcome).

Questions, where you should use the STAR method, include:

  • Tell us about a time…
  • Do you have an example of…

Strong Conclusion

When an interview ends, like any good speech, you must end with a strong conclusion. You need to make sure they remember you. There are two ways you can do this (and you can use both). One is by asking questions, which helps to engage them and shows your interest in the role. The second is by finishing with a strong concluding statement like, ‘Thank you for your time today; I have enjoyed talking to you. I am excited to be applying for this role, as I see this role as a great fit for my skills and experience, and I know I can make a difference to the success of the xx project/team. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.’ Craft your concluding statement to include three bullet points of why you should get the job.

Always smile and maintain good eye contact when delivering your concluding statement.

Research and Preparation

As with any presentation or public speaking, you always need to know who your audience is before you prepare your speech. It is the same with a job interview. It is increasingly likely that they will research you on social media when looking at your application, so you should do the same. Google your interviewers or look them up on LinkedIn, as you might find that you have something in common that you can then use as a point of reference in establishing rapport on the day. Connections help build trust and rapport, and you can make a note to mention something (a common interest) you share in the interview.

Read through the job description. What are they asking, what are they looking for, what are the essential requirements? You need to prove in your answers that you are what they are looking for and you can do what is required.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice your answers, familiarise yourself with your CV and even do a mock interview with a friend, the more you will feel you know what you need to say and are ready for the interview. Practice is one of the biggest creators of confidence in public speaking.

The Power of the Pause

In Toastmasters International, we are taught the power of the pause. If you forget what you are saying, take a pause. If you are stressed or anxious, take a pause. If you are speaking too quickly, take a pause. If you want to let a point sink in or have more impact, take a pause. The simple pause can be a very powerful tool.


If you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback. Not all employers will give it, but when you can get it, it can prove invaluable. Use that feedback to improve your chances at the next interview. Knowing what you need to improve is essential if you want to progress. Also, practice makes perfect with public speaking, and it is the same with interviews, so practice until you feel ready.

Good luck at your next job interview.

Nick Ronald is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and ... (Read More)

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