Building rapport (pronounced “ra-pore”) is the act of building relationships with others in which both parties feel supported and understood. Rapport is important when networking, during interviews and when developing your career at a certain job. While building rapport can take time, it is helpful as you work to accomplish important career goals.
In this article, we will discuss why building rapport is important and how to build rapport in your workplace, during your next interview or at your next networking event.
Why is building rapport important?
Building rapport is important because it can help you advance your career by developing relationships. Here are some relationships that can benefit from good rapport:
- Relationships with inspirational people. Building rapport with people around you whether you’re looking for a job or already in a job can help you learn from people who can inspire your work. People you meet might be a future mentor, help you develop ideas or work with you to help you accomplish certain goals.
- Relationships with key stakeholders. Building rapport with people who you need to work with to get tasks done is beneficial. Most importantly, it helps you understand how best to communicate with the people around you. This can make working together towards a common goal more efficient and enjoyable for both parties.
- Relationships with possible connections. Building rapport with those around you can open up new opportunities. Whether you connect with someone at your current company, at a networking event or simply during your regularly scheduled day, connecting with others can be helpful when developing and planning your career.
- Relationships with interviewers and hiring managers. During interviews, it it beneficial to try and connect with your interviewers. Building these relationships can help you feel more calm and help employers better understand and connect with you are and whether you would be a good fit for the position.
How to build rapport
Building rapport takes time and effort. Here are a few tips for building rapport depending on the situation you are in:
- Find times to connect
- Be friendly but genuine
- Ask questions about the person’s work, life or interests
- Remember details from your conversation—especially their name
- Build on previous conversation with follow-up questions
- Answer their questions about yourself
- Find a balance between questions, statements and taking turns speaking
- Use open, welcoming body language
- Be respectful of their time
- Provide your contact information
Let’s look at building rapport in more detail as it pertains to specific situations.
During networking events
To build rapport during networking events, take time to get settled into the environment. If it is crowded and you are overwhelmed, take a deep breath. If there is seating available, take a moment to gather your thoughts with your hands by your side and both feet planted firmly on the ground.
When you feel comfortable, approach a person or conversation that seems interesting to you. At networking events, people expect to meet new acquaintances so it is appropriate to approach others and introduce yourself. Speak with a strong voice and use a firm handshake. You can ask them questions to get a conversation started like “What brings you to the event?” or “What is your profession?”
Here are several additional icebreakers you might use during initial conversations with new connections:
- If you had a talk show, who would your first three guests be?
- If you could instantly be an expert in a subject, what would it be?
- Who was your favorite teacher when you were young? Why?
- What superpower would you like to have?
- What’s your favorite section in a bookstore or library?
- What aspect of your personality adds the most value to the world?
- What’s a skill you learned when you were young that you still use today?
- What’s your proudest accomplishment?
- What’s the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve been given?
After you’ve participated in initial conversations with a person or group of people, provide your contact information. You should continue to keep in contact with people who can help you on your job search and whom you can help in some way. It’s also worthwhile to build relationships with people that you find admirable or interesting. Setting up meetings to discuss current work or future aspirations can help build good professional relationships.
It can also be helpful to build rapport with the people you meet during the hiring process. From meeting the receptionist at the front desk to the recruiter to your interviewers, starting to build relationships with these people can increase your chances of getting the job. The better you are able to form personal connections, the more employers will be able to get a holistic understanding of who you are and the value you can bring to their company.
To build rapport during interviews, follow the lead of the interviewer. If they seem busy and prefer concise, to-the-point answers, do not try to fit additional conversation into the interview. If the interviewers starts your meeting with casual conversation, use this time to begin building a relationship. Answer their questions and ask questions back in return. While you should avoid personal topics, such as religion and politics, it can be appropriate to find topics or hobbies of common interest. It is important that you take an actual interest in the interviewer. Active listening and attentive body language such as eye contact can help form a genuine connection.
In the workplace
There are several ways you can begin to build rapport in your current workplace. It is likely that you will naturally form connections with some coworkers while others may require more effort. Either way, here are some ways you can build rapport in the workplace:
- Find appropriate moments to have casual conversation. While talking about work is important, participating in more casual conversation can be helpful when building relationships. When you have a meeting with someone, for example, start out by asking what activities they did over the weekend or whether they have any plans for the week.
- Actively listen and remember details. When you do find windows for conversation, the key is to listen intently, ask follow-up questions and remember key details. Bringing up topics from previous conversations can set an important foundation for conversations going forward. This is how you begin to find commonalities, learn someone’s likes and dislikes and eventually deeply understand how they work and think.
- Schedule quality time regularly. To continue building upon the relationship, find time to meet on a regular basis. You can schedule a lunch with the person, stop by their desk when you know they have free time, ask them to go for coffee or a walk around the building or share time in an activity you both enjoy.
Building rapport with people can help you to understand how they work, their likes and dislikes and how to best communicate with them. While building rapport is a skill you will continue to build throughout your career, there are a few steps you can take now to advance your professional relationships.