This technique is the secret to successful interviewing. If you focus on nothing else, pay attention to this technique. There is a simple key to success in interviewing that very few candidates utilize. It is the process of mirroring the personality of the person to whom you are speaking, a process referred 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, speak 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 s/he 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 candidates 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 been consistently trained in interviewing techniques (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 exactly, you should attempt to closely match his/her style of speaking and presenting.
To be effective with this technique, you need to first understand your own personality range. For some, it is quite wide and variant. For others, it may be more narrow. Perhaps you know someone with a very wide personality range—they are comfortable interacting with and matching both the very flamboyant and the very subdued. Each type is at an extreme end of their 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 you do if the person you meet with is talking a mile a minute? Should you try to artificially match that person, if that style of speaking is outside of your personality range? Nope. To attempt to act like someone you 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 fake trap in order to get the job, then are stuck being someone they are not as they feel 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 and even to the extreme ends of that range to accommodate the personality of the individual with whom you are meeting.
Personality matching does not mean perfect matching (it never is). However, it does mean that you should do your 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 control in your interviewing.
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.
Apply the same principle of the Personality Matching Technique to handshakes. Don't get confused by the "too hard" or "too soft" handshake psychology baloney. There is no absolute when it comes to handshakes because the effectiveness of the handshake is defined by the recipient. So is the handshake unimportant? No, it's very important, since it is often a major part of the first impression you provide to an interviewer. But it would be wrong to attempt to come up with "the perfect handshake" in advance. There is no such thing, since each person receiving your handshake has their own personal view of what is best in terms of a handshake. It's relative to the person who has your hand and fingers within their grasp. Therefore, a truly effective handshake is going to be a "mirror" of the handshake being offered. Do your best to attempt to match the person's handshake the same as you would attempt to match their speaking cadence and posture.
While personality matching is dynamic and takes place over an extended period of time, the handshake lasts just a couple seconds. So how do you adjust? Start with a medium-grip handshake, placing your hand so that the soft skin between your thumb and forefinger comes in contact with the same location on the recipient's hand. Then be prepared to squeeze down or lighten up, as necessary. Don't get into a wrestling contest. Again, just as in personality matching, you don't have to match the extremes. Just move to that end of your handshake range. Practice a few times with a friend. Have that person vary the handshake to help you practice how to go harder or softer, depending on the handshake being given.