If you have done a good job preparing for an interview, you should be able to explain your career history and accomplishments in a compelling way, making you shine as a leading candidate. Sharing all of your wonderful achievements is great; but, there is another, often overlooked, component to interview preparation – listening!
It is normal and expected that you will be slightly nervous. The art of listening should not be diminished! Oftentimes, people tend to talk more when they are nervous. During an interview this can work against you. If you answer a question that wasn’t asked or you misunderstood something that was said, the interview might not yield the result you were expecting. The hiring manager may think you don’t take direction well, or you don’t pay attention to detail.
The other problem with failing to listen is that you may miss some important clues or red flags related to the company or the job. I often tell clients that the interview process is a two-way street. You are interviewing the company as well. Therefore, you have the opportunity to hone in on what the interviewer is saying about the work, environment, and culture. Failing to listen and interpret what is being said could very well result in your accepting a role that is not an ideal fit for you.
Keep these things in mind to keep your listening skills up to par:
- Don’t begin thinking about your answer until you have completely heard the question and you are sure you fully understand. If necessary, ask the interviewer for clarification. You can also politely rephrase the question to be sure you have a clear interpretation of what was said.
- Listening doesn’t just happen with your ears. Try to pick up on non-verbal cues. When listening, your own body language should also reflect an engaged attitude. You should be leaning forward slightly so the speaker feels you are tuned in to what he is saying. Use facial expressions, nods of the head, and other non-verbal gestures to acknowledge that you understand.
- Avoid interrupting. Interjecting while someone else is speaking is rude. The person talking can lose their train of thought. Interruptions are a turn off. Wait until the interviewer is fully done speaking before you ‘take your turn’.
- You can practice your listening skills by working with a career coach in a mock interview. Alternatively, try working with a friend or family member as part of a planned dialogue. While it is best to do this exercise with a topic surrounding your career, you can discuss sports, movies, or other subjects to practice your listening skills.
- Listen between the lines. If you are asked your comfort level with working hours that extend beyond a traditional 40-hour work week, you will want to get clarification regarding how far beyond 40 hours is expected. Knowledge is power. Employing strong listening skills will enable you to ask the appropriate questions to ensure that you can make an informed decision.
Many of the most respected and admired professionals are good listeners. Having the ability to hear what is being said and let the speaker know that you understand them is an invaluable skill. Listening fosters strong overall communication. It will also result in your being a well-respected and well-liked member of a team. Being a good listener will also help you make sure your interviews are positive and productive; and when you get the job, this invaluable skill will also facilitate your overall career advancement.