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Rapport: How to Get It
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CERA - career and recruiting success

Interviewing, negotiating, selling, and recruiting all have a common denominator that leads to successful outcomes. The sooner you incorporate the principles of NLP into your business practices to develop rapport with your clients, managers and customers, the sooner you'll realize those successful outcomes.


Jim Rapson

What's important to realize is that rapport is a behavioral "phenomenon" that can be demonstrated and obtained by anyone regardless of gender, age, profession or culture. Understand that this is a behavior skill unconsciously learned by many people but certainly not all.

Imagine acquiring the "know how" to purposefully get rapport in interviews, sales calls, socially and other contexts. I'll start by using some terms:

  • Calibrating
  • Congruency
  • Mirroring/Matching
  • Leading

Calibrating involves noticing another person's verbal behavior -- tonality, tempo, how fast/slow they talk, volume (loud/soft), and sensory-based language. Sensory-based language would be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic words. It also involves noticing their nonverbal behavior -- posture, head tilts, arms crossed, legs crossed, breathing rate, hand/arm gestures.

Congruency is noticing if a person's verbal behavior matches their nonverbal behavior. Incongruent behavior is when the verbal isn't aligned with the nonverbal. This can mean a little or a lot, ranging from outright lying to simple facetious behavior.

Matching your verbal behavior to the other person's -- speak in the same voice tone, speed, tempo, and /or volume as theirs, sensory based language; matching their nonverbal behavior; adjusting your body language to the same posture, head tilt, arms crossed, legs crossed, breathing rate, hand/arm gestures, etc. as the other, are all part of mirroring. When mirroring, its critical to start doing it no earlier than 20- 40 seconds after you calibrate their behavior.

Adjust your behavior verbally and/or nonverbally after mirroring your audience and notice if they mirror you. If they do adjust, you probably have rapport. If you adjust a second time and they follow, you do have rapport and have successfully led them. They may adjust their behavior to you without necessarily mirroring your exact behavioral move/adjustment. Typically they will respond from immediately and up to two to three minutes.

If they don't mirror you, you have either led too quickly or you need to mirror them some more, or mirror a different verbal/nonverbal behavior in them and/or change your behavior again by choosing another behavior to lead with. Again, the test for rapport is when they adjust to you.

When in groups, you can mirror one person's voice tone, for example, and mirror another person's nonverbal behavior. This is a way of getting rapport with more than one person. You can also speak at approximately the same rate as their breathing. Then there is cross-over rapport/mirroring. It is a more advanced practice.

If you're a manager, your "power" comes from how well you play your role up and down the organization chain; skill with rapport is a key ingredient of that. So is congruency. When you have both, you have the kind of influence in time and through time with everyone, up and down the company chain and that commands the monetary rewards, career progress, and professional recognition you seek.

If you're a recruiter, whether contingency or corporate, you probably already know you're really in sales. Your success is a by-product of how competent your business and/or candidate development skills are, plus production for your company, and influence with your co-workers up and down the company's chain. The combination of congruency and superb rapport skills has equally as powerful an impact.

Whether most of your work is on the phone, in person, or both, whether you want these skills in multiple contexts, and whether you already easily and quickly obtain rapport or are new to the process, these are the basics of obtaining rapport with people and leading them.

Rapport skills are one of the first things taught in a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner course or by NLP-trained sales trainers. The better-trained NLP sales trainers employ very advanced teaching methodologies designed to rapidly lead students from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence within a practitioner or sales training course.

Jim Rapson, TCU BBA 82, is trained to Trainer's level in NLP by Richard Bandler. He has worked as an IT recruiter for several technical staffing firms, and in B2B Telemarketing for several Software and Environmental companies. He is currently an Account Manager for AutoVantage in Houston servicing their customer base in the Southeast USA. He can be reached via email at