This technique is the secret to successful interviewing. If you read nothing else, read this technique. There is a simple key to success in interviewing that very few people utilize. It is the process of mirroring the personality of the person to whom you are speaking, a process that I refer to as "Personality Matching." It is based upon the proven fact that we like people who are like us. It is the halo effect in action—anyone who is like me must be a good person. Result? Instant rapport.
Any good salesperson is aware of this simple technique. Want evidence? The next time you get a call from a telemarketer, do not hang up. Instead, stick with them a few minutes just to hear their pitch. You will probably know pretty quickly if you are dealing with a "greenie" who is reading from a script or a seasoned professional. If it's a greenie, give them a polite "no thank you" and hang up. But stick with the pro through the entire call. Why? Because now we are going to have some fun.
In the beginning of the call, talk to them in a very quick and upbeat voice, possibly somewhat higher in pitch. If they are good, they will follow right along with you, matching your tempo and pitch. If not, they are still a greenie, operating in their own little world. End the call. But if they follow along, here comes the fun. Gradually slow down your rate of speaking and lower your voice in both volume and pitch. Guess what? The true pro will follow you all the way down. Surprised? Don't be. Just as a telemarketing pro is trained to do this (and at this point may not even be conscious of what he or she is doing), any good marketing person does the exact same thing. Whatever the industry, the most successful salespeople are the ones who meet you (the customer) at your level.
In the same way, the best interviewees are the ones who have the ability to meet the interviewers at their level. "Wait a minute, shouldn't that be the job of the interviewer?" No! Remember, the only interviewers who have actually been trained at interviewing (HR) are usually not the ones who make the final hiring decision. Even some of the best interviewers are totally unaware of this technique or are unwilling to apply it.
So how does one do this "personality matching" thing? First match the voice and then the physical characteristics of the interviewer. In matching the voice, the most important aspect is to match the rate of speaking (tempo); then match the pitch. In matching the physical characteristics, it is most important to match (or at least reflect) the facial expressions, then the posture (sitting back or forward, etc.). Although you should not be trying to "mimic" (like a mime in action), you should attempt to closely match him or her.
Make an effort to meet me at my level and I will attempt to meet you at yours.
To be effective with this technique, you need to first understand your own personality range. For some of us, it is quite wide and variant. For others, it may be more narrow. As an example, I consider myself to have a very wide personality range—I am very comfortable in matching both the very flamboyant and the very subdued. Each type is at an extreme end of my personality range. Most people, however, operate in a somewhat narrower personality range. The key is to be able to identify your personal bounds of comfort.
So what do we do if the person we meet with is talking a mile a minute? Should we try to artificially match that person, if it is outside of our personality range? Quite simply, no. To attempt to act like someone we are not would be "faking it." and in the business world it can be a real killer. Some people end up getting sucked into this trap in order to get the job, then go through a continual living hell as they are forced to fake it for the duration of the job. Don't do it. But you should be aware of what your personality range is and be willing to move fluidly within that range to accommodate the personality of the individual with whom you are meeting.
Personality matching does not mean perfect matching (it never is). It does mean that we should do our best to come as close as possible to matching the other person's personality within the bounds of our own personality range. Keep in mind that there is no "perfect personality" (or perfect anything on this earth, for that matter). What is perfect to one will always be lacking in some way to another. Remember, perfection is relative to the recipient.
As a side note, think about someone you truly dislike. In most cases, it's because the person is outside your personality range, usually in the upper extreme (too loud, too pushy, too cocky, too egotistical, too stuffy, etc.)—they are "too much" of something that you do not embrace in your own personality. If you have a "too much" area in your own personality, you are best advised to bring it under strict control, not only in interviewing, but in your life in general.
If you put into practice this one technique, you will likely increase your chances of success dramatically, and not just in interviewing. Personality matching is a technique you can use in virtually all areas of human communication.