Job Interviews: Are You Listening?

Jeff Lipschultz, Recruiter, A List SolutionsMost of the articles about interviewing focus on what job seekers should say – how they should answer questions and, also, what questions they should ask.  But, when we think about it, we realize that talking is really only part of a conversation.  An equally important part of a successful interview is listening.

Dallas Recruiter Jeff Lipschultz, President of A-List Solutions and Job-Hunt.org’s Working With Recruiters Expert, pictured here on the left, offers excellent advice on also being a good listener.

 

You’re a “good communicator,” but are you listening?

by Jeff Lipschultz

One of the most popular requirements listed for an open job posting is “good communicator.”  Most people immediately think something along the lines of “Yes, I am good at communicating my message clearly to individuals and large groups.”

But this is only half of being a good communicator.  Hiring managers want to know you’re also a good listener.

Why?

Being a good listener means you will synthesize what is being said correctly and use that information to direct your thoughts for further action.  This could be simply following directions.  It could be part of a brainstorming session.  It could be for communicating the same message to your own team.  Obviously, the scenarios are endless, but all important.

Listening during an interview

During an interview, the hiring manager will pick up on cues that indicate to him or her that you are a good listener.  If they sense you’re not listening well, a bias will creep into the interview that you would not be an asset to the team.  For highly selective managers, this can be a red flag that you cannot recover from later in the interview.

How do you show you are listening?

  • Answer the question being asked. 
    Seems obvious, but sometimes, people answer what they THINK is the question being asked.  If you missed something or are not sure, you can ask for clarification or ask them to repeat the question.  Just be careful, if you have to do this more than once or twice, the red flag will be raised.
  • Your body language should show you are engaged. 
    Lean slightly forward.  Eyes focused on your interviewer’s eyes (or eye brows if you’re a little nervous about eye contact).  Even nodding your head can indicate you are agreeing or understand.  Don’t fidget.
  • Note-taking can be helpful in few ways.
    It helps you concentrate on what is being said.  It also sends a message to the interviewer that you’re listening and what they’re saying to you is considered important.  Just be careful to limit this to key words that trigger your memory on the details later.  Too much note-taking takes away from your eye contact.
  • Tie back to things that were said earlier.
    If you reference something that was discussed earlier, it shows you not only were listening, but stored that information.  A good time to do this is while you ask questions at the end of the interview.  For example, you could say, “You mentioned earlier that your company specializes in xyz.  I’m curious to know how my skills in abc might help the company be successful in delivering that service.”

More information on asking the right questions is available in my Job-Hunt.org article:  Interview Success: Asking the Right Questions

How do you show you are NOT listening?

  • Body language is the most obvious sign. 
    Glassed over eyes.  Lack of focus on the interviewer.  Acting distracted or looking at your watch.  All these can send the signal you’d rather be somewhere else, and you’re not listening.  This is the rudest possible message to send during an interview.
  • Interrupting the interviewer.
    This typically signals that you’re thinking of things to say and can’t wait to say them (instead of listening to the whole question or statement).
  • Lack of silence.
    Sometimes, it is better to take a moment to digest the question.  It shows you have listened carefully and are carefully considering your answer.
  • Make sure you have turned off your cell phone. 
    Even vibration alerts can be a distraction (whether obvious or not), and lead to missing something important.

Critical times to listen

  1. When you are introduced to someone.
    Concentrate on listening for their name (and title) when you are introduced to someone.  Some candidates are so nervous at this stage of the interview that they miss this.  Being able to address the interviewer by name later in the interview shows you have an attention for details.
  2. Towards the end of the interview. 
    Some candidates let their guard down knowing the “hard part” is over.  But at these moments, important information can be exchanged such as next steps in the process or general impressions they have of you.  Keep your focus to the very end.

Bottom Line

Listening is half (or maybe more) of being a good communicator.  Presenting yourself well is important.  The words you choose, your tone, your delivery, all weigh into how you are perceived.  But keep in mind, sometimes what you do while you’re NOT talking may be what actually separates you from the crowd.

More About Job Interviews

Answers to the Most Common Job Interview Questions

How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview

10 Steps to from Job Interview to Job Offer

More About Working with Recruiters

How to Work with Internal Recruiters

How to Work with External Recruiters

How to Get Noticed by External Recruiters

Job Interviews: Are You Listening?

Guide to Working with Recruiters (Job-Hunt.org)

 

© Copyright, 2012, Jeff Lipschultz. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

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Job-Hunt.org’s Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. He is a unique recruiter, a Six Sigma Blackbelt, and a founding member of the Dallas chapter of the Peter Drucker Society. Learn more about him through his company site AListSolutions.com and his personal blog. And follow Jeff on Twitter.com/JLipschultz.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the detailed article Jeff. As a senior in college I am always curious on ways to fine tune my interviewing skills and become a better prospect for employers. I have been through the discouraging process of thinking I nailed and interview and then never receiving a job offer.

    The most beneficial piece I took from the article is the importance of non-verbal cues. Great pointers on posture and eye contact. Asking questions that use previously discussed material is a great piece of advice. I like the idea of note taking, as it can calm the nerves and show how precise you are.

    Great article!

    • Joe,
      Glad to help. Practicing with friends is also helpful because they will hone in on the non-verbal stuff, too. They’re not as interested in the answers, so they’ll naturally notice things you do that can be connectors or disconnectors with your interviewers.
      JL

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