Interviews are weird.

The process of hiring and getting hired is a two way street. There are always two sides of the table, the interviewer and the interviewee. Each side wants to make things work, both sides often feel a little awkward at the uncomfortable and unnatural game of twenty questions that is about to ensue, and each side undoubtedly feels there is a slight sense that this is a very important first date. Interviews are an odd social construction designed to identify qualified candidates for a specific position. The interviewer has a checklist of wants and needs, and any good interviewee should also have a mentally enumerated catalogue of his or her own wishes and expectations.

The interviewee looks across the table at the interviewer, the representative of a collective corporation or firm, the guardian of the key that may open the door to the rest of his or her gainful career in this industry. The interviewer looks across the table at the interviewee, a vision in neutral tones of numbers and dates; graduation year, GPA, previous term of employment, salary expectations, and years of education.

What is often forgotten or overlooked in this interviewing process is that both interviewer and interviewee, on the most fundamental level, are human. While there is a whole library of advice and tips regarding the specific art of interviewing, the basic tools to connect and bond with people on a basic human level should not be undervalued. Creating a real and genuine connection in an interview between interviewer and interviewee will ensure that you and the experience is memorable, and moreover, that the memory is positive and encouraging.

Both interviewer and interviewee ideally would like the interview to be fruitful, and no matter what side of the table you sit on, you can benefit from the following advice on how to connect with a new acquaintance.

 1. Say thank you. 

If you are the interviewer, you ought to be grateful that this fantastic candidate has chosen your firm, has taken time our of his or her life to diligently prepare for this interview, and has made a good faith effort to put his or her best foot forward. Recognize the preparatory work one has put into this first meeting and thank said person for his or her time and efforts.

If you are the interviewee, you are undoubtedly grateful for the opportunity and for that fact that the interviewers have taken time out of their workdays to get to know you. Be gracious and earnest in giving thanks and expressing appreciation.

2. The secret handshake is actually a smile.

Experts wax and wane poetic about the importance of a handshake in the business and professional context. While it is true that a good, strong, and firm handshake is an important part of your first impression, there is a secret metaphorical handshake that many forget about. A handshake is to business success as a smile is to personal success. A genuine smile is an equally important component of your first impression package.

Note, I used the qualifier “genuine.” Whether the interviewer or interviewee, people intuitively know can tell if you are flashing your pearly whites in a rehearsed and insincere manner. Think of something that makes you happy, try to humanize the other side, and connect said person with a personal memory that brings you joy. Maybe the person you are meeting is wearing your favourite colour or his/her glasses remind you of your grade school teacher, whatever it is, bring some real and honest emotion to fuel your smile.

 3. Don’t be afraid of a little passion.

While the interviewing process is no place for romance, it is a place for passion. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewee and express in an interest in what he or she is passionate about. Likewise as the interviewer or interviewee, don’t be afraid to share your own passion, particularly if your find yourselves on common terrain. By sharing and supporting in another’s excitement and enthusiasm, you will create an instant bond and genuine connection.

Furthermore, igniting someone’s spark by speaking about his or her passion will encourage an open and honest avenue for communication. Both parties will ultimately learn more about each other, thus procuring a productive and positive interview.