Building Rapport and Trust



Updated August 24, 2022
Technical Recruiting and Hiring

You’re reading an excerpt of The Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring, a book by Osman (Ozzie) Osman and over 45 other contributors. It is the most authoritative resource on growing software engineering teams effectively, written by and for hiring managers, recruiters, interviewers, and candidates. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, over 800 links and references, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Take the time at the start of a conversation to humanize yourself to the candidate and make the process—and your company—seem less alien. Ask how the candidate is doing. Be friendly and considerate, and note whether the candidate seems nervous.

Next, introduce yourself and talk a little about your background. Briefly sharing a few personal details or stories can help put the candidate at ease. This can also be a great point to mention why you are at your company. The candidate will remember that you, too, were once just starting out in a new position.

As you begin to develop some trust and rapport with the candidate, try to form a connection. For instance, you might find some common ground, like an aquaintance you share or a favorite band. Maybe you used to travel through their hometown. Just a small connection can put the candidate at ease. Alternatively, you can try to note something unique or interesting about their background and bring it up. “So I heard you used to roadie for Black Sabbath. Did you learn to code on the tour bus?” A little prior research can help here.

After these opening lines, maybe a laugh or two, explain the purpose of your conversation. For a first conversation, you’ll say something like, “Today is a chance for us both learn a bit about each other and better understand each other, and explore whether there might be a fit.” This is where your candidate-centric approach can really show. If this meeting has a specific agenda, let them know what to expect.

important This conversation may or may not be around five minutes. With a shy or nervous candidate, you might spend more time chatting and making them feel comfortable. If you’ve already had a chance to build rapport (over email or if you met at an event), you could spend less time in this opening conversation. The candidate may also just not be willing to get into too much small talk; you don’t have to force them.

Getting to Know the Candidate

After this introduction, your next step should be discovery. Ask questions and listen carefully. If asked with genuine interest, most people will really tell you honestly what they want and are looking for, what makes them a good fit or a poor fit for a role, and their self-perceived strengths and weaknesses. If they trust your intentions, they might also go further by seeking your advice.

Their Direction

It’s important to understand why (and whether) they are actively looking and how serious they are. You might have some prior signal here depending on how you and the candidate connected (for instance, whether they applied to an open position or whether you reached out to them).

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