Recruitment & Selection

Rapport-Building in Structured Interviews

Structured interviews have long been considered valuable tools for gathering information about job applicants. Although they are comprised of structured questions, these interviews also include an initial rapport-building stage, during which the interviewer briefly engages in small-talk with the applicant. Three types of information are intuitively gathered by the interviewer in this initial rapport-building stage:
  • Competence – How competent does the applicant appear to be initially?
  • Affect – How likable is the applicant?
  • Similarity – How similar is the applicant to the interviewer?
Each of these three types of information impact subsequent interview scores and outcomes (e.g., job offers). Initial impressions of affect and similarity are irrelevant to job performance and may have a biasing effect on interview scores. However, initial impressions of competence formed during the rapport-building stage may contain job-relevant information.

Rapport-Building Findings

The interviewer’s initial impressions of affect and similarity did impact interview scores and the likeliness of a job offer. Furthermore, initial impressions of the applicant’s competence influenced interview scores and the likelihood of receiving a job offer above and beyond initial impressions of affect and similarity. Overall, better initial impression ratings led to higher interview scores and greater likelihood of receiving a job offer.

Practical Implications

  Initial competence ratings may be useful pieces of information when made early in the selection process, such as during career fair recruiting or during a screening interview. These intuitive impressions of the applicant’s competence are more suitable as a “select-out”, rather than a “select-in”, decision aid. Secondly, initial competence ratings may prove useful for jobs that require a lot of brief, meet-and-greet interactions with a variety of people. In this case, the applicant’s ability to interact effectively during the rapport-building stage of the interview may lend credit to the applicant’s social competence at handling similar social interactions on the job. As a way to capitalize on initial competence ratings, the DeGarmo Group would suggest implementing a structured scoring system that will guide interviewers in rating this interpersonal skill. Finally, organizations should be cautious about eliminating the initial rapport-building stage altogether from the structured interview for two reasons:
  • Interviewers tend to naturally form initial impressions of applicants no matter what.
  • The initial rapport-building stage can increase the applicant’s satisfaction with the interview and can function as an opportunity to further recruit the applicant.

Mackenzi Harmon


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Barrick, M.R., Swider, B.W., & Stewart, G.L. (2010). Initial evaluations in the interview: Relationships with subsequent interviewer evaluations and employment offers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1163-1172.