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Building Rapport with I/O Psychology Candidates: Fostering Effective Interview Environments

Tips for Humanizing the Process and Creating Positive Interview Experiences

When hiring an I/O psychologist, selecting the right candidate is vital for the success of your organization. Interviews serve as a crucial component of this process. However, merely asking well-structured questions may not yield valuable insights without establishing rapport. Rapport-building is essential to creating a comfortable and positive interview environment, where I/O psychology candidates feel at ease sharing their skills and potential.

In this blog post, we will explore the significance of rapport in I/O psychology interviews, supported by empirical research. Moreover, actionable tips and best practices will be provided to help recruiters foster rapport and conduct more effective interviews.

Understanding the Essence of Rapport

Leech (2002) emphasizes that rapport is more than just putting people at ease. It involves demonstrating genuine interest, understanding, and active listening to encourage candidates to share their experiences, skills, and potential. Capella (1990) provides a definition for rapport. He explains that rapport is a feeling state that occurs during interactions with others. It is characterized by feelings of interest, positivity, and balance in the interaction. These internal states can be observed through behaviors such as showing interest and involvement, displaying optimism, and demonstrating patterns of coordination, responsiveness, or synchrony during an interview.

Strategies for Promoting Effective Interview Environments

Action Item 1: Demonstrate Genuine Interest

Demonstrate authentic interest in the candidate and their experiences. Research their background and achievements before the interview and ask specific questions about their work history and skills. Acknowledge their responses with verbal cues, such as "That's impressive!" or "Tell me more about that."

How-to: Research the candidate's previous work history, projects, and accomplishments to ask specific questions during the interview.

Tip: Take notes during the preparation process and refer to them during the interview to demonstrate that you have done your homework and are genuinely interested in the candidate.

Action Item 2: Create a Positive Atmosphere

I/O psychology applicants often seek roles that align with a positive and supportive work culture. They are often high-performing and work for impact, getting purposeful things done. They are also strategists by nature. Recruiters play a pivotal role in creating that atmosphere from the start. Smile, make eye contact, and use open body language to convey approachability. As Farago et al. (2013) identified, recruiters who display warm behaviors, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, and voicing friendly statements, receive positive feedback from candidates, regardless of the interview outcome.

How-To: Begin the interview with a warm and friendly greeting, such as a handshake and a smile, or a tilted head and a smile if a virtual meeting.

Tip: Start the interview with some small talk or casual conversation to help candidates feel more relaxed before diving into the formal questions (Leech, 2002).

Action Item 3: Embrace Unstructured Interviews

Kohn and Dipboye (1998) found that unstructured interviews, where interviewers encourage applicants to interrupt and share their thoughts freely, resulted in more favorable responses from candidates. (Do be careful though, making sure to adhere to non-negotiable structured interview best practices that provide each candidate with a comparable experience and minding company recruiting guidelines.) Adopting an unstructured approach allows candidates to express themselves without feeling confined to a rigid format.


  • Inform the candidate that the interview will be informal and free-flowing

  • Encourage candidates to ask questions or provide comments at any point during the conversation

  • Be prepared to ask follow-up questions based on the candidate's responses to display engagement

  • Don't be afraid to divert to conversational topics, such as hobbies or interests, to understand the candidate's personality and cultural fit better (Kohn and Dipboye, 1998).

Tip: Let the conversation flow naturally, even if it deviates from the standard interview questions. Not only will it help the applicant feel comfortable, but you may also gain insight into the candidate's personality or problem-solving skills that you wouldn't have gathered from traditional questioning.

Action Item 4: Practice Active Listening and Empathic Statments

Actively listening to candidates is a cornerstone of building rapport. Engage with a candidate's responses by nodding, paraphrasing, and asking follow-up questions. Show empathy and understanding to reinforce that their experiences and responses are valued.

How-To: Repeat the candidate's responses back to them to show that you are actively listening and understanding their points. Nurturing the human need to feel hear and understood goes a long way in developing trust and rapport.

Tip: Always let the candidate finish their thoughts before responding or asking additional questions.

Action Item 5: Maintain Transparency

Transparency is a crucial element in establishing rapport with I/O psychology candidates. Rynes and Miller's (1983) research highlights that failure to provide specific information about job attributes can be misinterpreted by applicants. They may perceive it as an attempt to avoid discussing unattractive job characteristics or as an indication of low recruiter interest.

By openly sharing essential details about the job and the company culture, recruiters establish a foundation of honesty and authenticity. This transparency allows candidates to make informed decisions about their fit within the organization, leading to more meaningful interactions during the interview process. Moreover, candidates are more likely to view the organization as credible and trustworthy, further strengthening the rapport-building process.

How-to: Share insights into the organization's culture, values, and career growth opportunities.

Tip: Encourage candidates to ask questions during the interview, and respond honestly and openly to address any concerns they may have.

Fostering rapport is essential when interviewing I/O psychology candidates. Demonstrating genuine interest, creating a positive atmosphere, embracing unstructured interviews, practicing active listening empathy, and maintaining transparency contribute to a comfortable environment where candidates feel encouraged to share openly. By implementing these actionable tips and best practices, recruiters can conduct more effective interviews and make informed hiring decisions for their organizations.

"Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting, and Orienting New Employees" by Diane Arthur

Building rapport with I/O psychology candidates is a multifaceted process. While the actionable tips and insights mentioned earlier offer valuable guidance, delving into additional resources can enrich your skill set. Diane Arthur's book, "Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees," provides valuable insights that can greatly benefit recruiters in their pursuit of building rapport with applicants. Here are some important points and concepts from the book that align with the theme of fostering comfortable interview environments:

Setting Enough Time for the Interview: Arthur (2005) stresses that allocating sufficient time for interviews not only demonstrates respect for the applicant's schedule but also allows for a more relaxed and unhurried conversation. Recruiters can engage in deeper discussions, enabling candidates to express their thoughts and experiences in a comfortable manner.

Choosing a Suitable Physical Location: Holding the interview in a distraction-free and pleasant environment creates a comfortable atmosphere for the applicant. A well-chosen location helps minimize external disturbances and allows candidates to focus on the interview. Additionally, thoughtful seating arrangements can facilitate open and candid communication, fostering a sense of ease and openness during the interaction (Arthur, 2005).

Open-Ended Questions for an Organizational Conversation: In some cases, Arthur (2005) argues that utilizing open-ended questions encourages applicants to elaborate on their responses, leading to more meaningful conversations. Interviewers can delve into the candidate's experiences, motivations, and thought processes, facilitating a deeper understanding of their qualifications and fit within the organization while conveying a genuine interest in the candidate's perspective.

Being Prepared for Candidate Questions: Proactively anticipating and answering candidate questions exhibits a recruiter's commitment to transparency and candidate satisfaction. By addressing applicants' inquiries thoroughly and honestly, interviewers establish trust and credibility. Candidates who feel their questions are valued are more likely to feel comfortable and engaged throughout the interview process (Arthur, 2005).

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Arthur, D. (2005). Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting, and Orienting New Employees. AMACOM.

Cappella, J. N. (1990). On defining conversational coordination and rapport. Psychological Inquiry, 1(4), 303-305.

Farago, B., Zide, J. S., & Shahani-Denning, C. (2013). Selection interviews: Role of interviewer warmth, interview structure, and interview outcome in applicants’ perceptions of organizations. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 65(3), 224.

Kohn, L. S., & Dipboye, R. L. (1998). The effects of interview structure on recruiting outcomes. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28(9), 821-843.

Leech, B. L. (2002). Asking questions: Techniques for semistructured interviews. PS: Political Science & Politics, 35(4), 665-668.

Rynes, S. L., & Miller, H. E. (1983). Recruiter and job influences on candidates for employment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 68, 146-154.


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