People buy from whom they like. Most are even willing to pay more for the comfort level. Companies are no different. They hire whom they like. They hire whom they know. They hire friends of who they know, and so forth. Your first objective in an interview immediately following the word “hello” should be to shrink the world. One of the easiest ways to do this with the interviewer is to find your commonalities or connections. I recommend doing it as early in the interview as possible to gain maximum benefit from it. I call it “friending” the job interviewer.

The fastest way to develop a connection with the interviewer is to shrink the world.

Once you are able to establish your commonalities, the interviewer’s demeanor might become more welcoming or relaxed. More importantly, the interviewer will start to fill her communication gaps with positive, rather than negative, assumptions regarding you. In effect, you have altered the interviewer’s biases and likely will start gaining the benefit of the doubt rather than receiving the more often present detriment of the doubt.

How do you find these commonalities? A few clicks around the Web is the easiest way. You will likely uncover common colleagues or friends. Professional networking or social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are wonderful tools. With the onset of social media, there is a high probability you will find some valuable information. Sixty-five percent of online adults use social networking sites, according to Jobvite, a California-based software company that specializes in recruitment. Their 2011 study, The 33 Essential Recruiting Statistics, highlights this and other relevant information.

Shrinking the world is the fastest way, but sharing the same passions might be the most effective.

While having a personal connection through colleagues can create a nice bond, sharing the same interests might create an even greater one. Sharing the same experiences builds a kindred spirit that figuratively says, “I understand you.” This is typically a bit more difficult to identify early on, because an interview process would rarely start here. You can, however, be observant and glance around the interviewer’s office to see if there are books, pictures, plaques, objects, or other trinkets that expose the person’s interests. Comment if you think it is appropriate.

Another effective technique is to “cast your line.” Early in the conversation, insert comments about your interests and passions. How you introduce yourself and speak about yourself matters. If you integrate facts and interests into your stories, you will provide the interviewer opportunities to connect. That is also one of the most effective ways to create a picture for the interviewer.

Regardless of the technique you use, be sure to let the interview unfold naturally as opposed to being obvious that you are fishing for some common interests.

Interviewers are dog lovers too.

This is true for everyone but especially the nervous types. There is absolutely no reason to be anxious during an interview. The maximum “punishment” is you do not get the job. Last time I checked, anyone interviewing for a job didn’t have the job yet anyway, so technically you didn’t lose anything other than a bit of your time. (Technically, you gained an experience and insight about yourself, the company, and its people, so you are likely ahead from the encounter.)

One of the easiest ways to relax those worries is to remember you are interviewing with a human who has hobbies and interests. Interviewers are marathoners, fishermen, golfers, parents, siblings, and a host of other things. You might have gathered clues to those interests if you noticed pictures or surrounding trinkets in the office using the techniques cited earlier. One of my favorite “common interest” stories occurred with a reluctant client. I recognize this is not 100 percent analogous to interviewing for a job, but this story centers on a woman who would determine my company’s fate regarding supporting her organization, so I think the magnitude is sufficiently in line and hope you roll with me on this one.

A senior executive from a prominent software firm in Chicago called me based on a referral from another client. This executive needed recruiting assistance after a few unsuccessful attempts with other search firms. I went to his office to discuss his requirements. The next day, after a little homework on both sides, we had agreed to terms. He asked me to follow up with Global Director of Recruiting to ensure we executed the contract properly. She offered me twenty minutes of her time, so I went to meet her. I was out of her office in eighteen minutes.

Over the next month, she was relatively evasive to my calls. I’m not sure why, and it doesn’t matter. One morning, she and I were on the phone, and my dog uncharacteristically barked (I worked from home at that time). I said, “Sorry about that. I think my dog got excited about something.” She asked, “You have a dog? What kind? I have three. They’re my life.” This was followed by fifteen minutes of chit chat about the dogs. We were e-mailing each other pictures. You get the gist. From that moment, our entire relationship changed and evolved into one of the most successful professional relationships in the history of my firm. To this day, I would call her a friend.

You won’t know a person’s interests until they surface. In this case, it was by accident. In the case of your interviews, recognize that you can make your own luck by remaining observant.

For the really clever, you can give yourself a head start.

In addition to operating a recruiting firm, I am part owner and an advisory board member of an agency called 7Summits. We help our clients create and implement social business strategies. The company was named after the highest mountain summits on the seven continents—to represent our team’s resourcefulness and ability to reach a goal. My search firm also supports its recruiting activities.

Speaking of resourcefulness—the CEO is a charismatic man. He loves hiking, fly fishing, and photography. Anyone can surf the Internet to discover this with very little effort. One clever individual decided to take it a bit further. The CEO called me and mentioned he recently received a box in the mail. He said, “When I opened it, I saw one hiking boot. There was a card included, so I obviously opened it.” He opened it to find this letter:


[CEO], I have my boot in the door. Now I just need to get my foot in it. This boot has been to the top of four of the seven summits. Please accept my résumé for your review. I am extremely passionate about social media …

Is this gesture a bit over the top? Maybe. What is not in question is its relevance. It was also an extremely creative way to ensure he surfaced his credentials to arguably the most important person in the organization. It also demonstrated passion on the candidate’s part. While it remains to be seen whether we will hire this individual, one thing is certain—he will receive a call back, something that absolutely must happen in order for him to get the job.