Set of manual tools over a wooden panelI recently read an interesting article on how candidates can use Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) techniques to build rapport with their interviewer in order to create a stronger impression and increase their chances of being identified as a suitable candidate. (In case, you weren’t aware, at a high concept level, NLP is the science of modeling patterns of our behavior. In our context NLP is a powerful technique that can enable us to communicate with and influence others with extra-ordinary effectiveness.)

In light of this article, I thought it would be useful to set out several tips on how recruiters and employers can potentially use NLP to develop greater rapport with a candidate and better achieve the information gathering goals of the interview.

1. Matching the interviewee’s tone volume and rate of speech (para-language)

Interviews can be naturally intimidating environments, which means that candidates can be tongue tied, guarded and defensive, making it hard for you to obtain the inside information you want. So, if you can build a rapport and get the candidate to trust you, the person will relax, barriers will drop and you may have a better exchange of information. A useful NLP technique (often used by hypnotists on resistant clients!) is called “matching” where you match your non verbal behavior to that of the candidate by matching the candidate’s tone, volume and rate of speech (para-language). If the candidate speaks slowly and quietly, try slowing down your speech and speaking more quietly too. This can result in the candidate opening up more.

2. Matching the interviewee’s body language

Another NLP approach to building rapport with a job candidate during your interview is matching kinesics or matching the candidate’s body language, which includes things such as posture, gestures, movement of the body, position of arms, etc. So, where possible try and match the candidate’s body language in a subtle and cautious way. This is to avoid mimicking the candidate which could be disquieting for the candidate – as this will help to relax the candidate and encourage the free flow of information.

Try and follow natural matching processes, such as when people are in a conversation and where they can often hold the same posture, such as both crossing their arms or both holding their chins in a quizzical manner. Another example could be that the candidate feels especially enthused and leans forward to press a point enthusiastically; you might mirror this behavior by leaning forward too. The candidate may then relax and adopt a more open posture by sitting back, and you might do the same.

With each successive change in the candidate’s body language you match his/her behavior helping to build a greater rapport with the candidate and widen the door to information exchange. As I said, take it slowly, be subtle, don’t overdo it and avoid mimicry.

3. Matching the interviewee’s language

We all know that behavioral questions are tricky. It’s important that we create the best possible setting for the candidate because it’s no use to anybody if the candidate fails to answer the question. Why? Because the recruiter simply has no data. We don’t know if the candidate is just incompetent or just flustered momentarily, which is why we want to develop an environment for behavioral questions to be answered well. NLP can help this.

For example, people recall and relay experiences according to either the visual (thinks in terms of pictures); auditory (hears sounds); kinesthetic (feels or experiences emotion); or representational system according to NLP.

You can identify the interviewee’s data processing style by looking at “eye accessing cues.” For example, those who look up when answering behavioral questions are trying to remember as a picture; those who look to the side are trying to hear the words being said and use these as a cue; and those looking down are using feelings or emotions as a cue.

If you can identify which type of recall system the candidates are using, you can help to prompt them more effectively if they get stuck on a question. For example, if you think they are auditory, you might ask, “What did the angry client say to you? Did they raise their voice?” And if they are feeling based you might ask, “How did you feel about the angry client and how did you manage any anger or frustration?” If they are visual, you might prompt them by saying, “Can you describe the scene in the meeting? Where was the angry client sat? Where were you sat? How far away were you? Show me?”

These are all just prompts to help you communicate with interviewees struggling with behavioral questions, in their preferred style to help information exchange.

I realize there is a lot to take in here and this is just meant to open you up to the idea of NLP in candidate interviewing and you can read more about it here.

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