How in sync are you with the employees, team or customers you work with? Does it matter? Probably more than we give credit. Building rapport is an important part of moving ahead in your career.

I remember years ago when I was getting ready to interview for a position. Someone gave me a book that I eventually lent out and never got back.

For the life of me, I can’t recall the title of the book, but I do remember the valuable lesson I learned from it. The technique that I have used many times is called mirroring or being in sync with the other person.

It is a simple concept, yet requires practice to make it seamless.

Being in sync or mirroring can be done on a verbal or non-verbal level. It is not limited to interviewing situations, it can be used in any individual or small group meeting.

It is easier to use in an individual meeting as the clues will be more defined. If you use it in a small group meeting, let the decision maker or leader of the group be your primary focus.

Verbal Approach

If I want to mirror someone verbally, I would answer the question in the same manner it was asked. The premise is that I want to respond with my information in the format that is most desirable to the recipient. This may be different from my native approach.

Here a couple of examples where an interviewer may ask similar questions, yet seek a different kind of response:

John says: “What are the top reasons for why I should consider you for this position?” Your response would be short with specific details, highlighting your point quickly.

Conversely, if Mary asks, “Why should I consider you for this position over another candidate?” This question is more open ended, implying a broader, big picture approach with examples of why I should be selected.”

If I am mirroring them well, the conversation will flow quickly to the next question. There may be an apparent appearance that we are “filling in the blanks” with each other.

Failing to be in sync, will typically illicit a follow on question, probing the same question in a different way until they find the answer they are looking for or they give up.

Nonverbal Approach

Sitting across from an interviewer, if you are able to pick up the nonverbal approach of your interviewer, you may be able to be in sync with them. For example, if they:

  • Lean forward or backward in their chair
  • Have strong or weak eye contact
  • Use their hands expressively
  • Vary the pace, tone or inflection of their voice

You would be able to mirror that same activity. We often build rapport quickly with people who are like us. If we act similarly, the other person becomes more comfortable and less on edge with us. The increase in receptivity can give us the advantage we are seeking to gain.

As a word of caution, practice the art of mirroring before entering into an important meeting or interview. To actively engage yourself in the observation and execution of mirroring can divert you from utilizing your listening skills.

If the other person senses you are not engaged, it won’t matter how well you think you are in sync…the mirror will shatter and your rapport is lost.