Saturday, June 11, 2011

Being a good listener in interviews

Listening carefully to what the interviewer has to ask and convey is helpful in providing comprehensive answers, asking the right questions and taking a well informed decision about the job in question.

Sure, you will prepare for common questions asked in an interview, and say the right things that will help you get hired. But have you given thought to the importance of listening in creating interview success?

Why is listening important for successful interviews?
  • To fully understand the question being asked before you begin to answer. A common mistake many anxious candidates commit while trying to make a good impression is to start thinking about the answer while the interviewer is still midway with the question. It is important to have a clear interpretation of the question being asked to ensure that you address every aspect of it, and deliver a direct and specific response.
  • It reflects through your body language. Listening goes beyond keeping your ears open. It also means conveying your attentiveness through non-verbal cues like sitting straight, leaning in a little to show keenness, and acknowledging in time to what is being said. Sloppy body language conveys disinterest and incompetency to the interviewer. Being attentive during the course of the interview shows that you are genuinely interested in the position.
  • Pick up crucial information about the company and role. The interview is a time to not only be evaluated by the company, but also an opportunity to learn about what the hiring manager has to say about the company’s work culture, the role’s demands, and even red flags related to the job or the organisation. So, listen carefully to the words spoken and also the interpretations of those that aren’t.

Here are some ways by which you can keep your listening skills as sharp as the answers you give:

Listen till the interviewer finishes speaking. Do not interrupt. Not only is it rude and will break the flow of conversation, it will prevent you from understanding what the interviewer really wanted to ask. Wait till the interviewer has finished speaking before you take your turn.

Listen, comprehend, or ask for clarification. Ensure that you have fully understood the question being put forth; else politely ask for clarification. Another way to make sure that you have noted all the points that you need to address for the question asked, rephrase and spell out the requirements of the question to the interviewer, and only then begin your response to the same.

For example, you may say something like “Would like me to begin by providing a detailed description of the projects handled, followed by challenges faced and overcome during each?” Keep your body language in tune with the conversation. Sit straight while leaning forward slightly, acknowledge by means of expressions and verbal confirmations (‘yes’, ‘I understand’, and ‘absolutely’) showing an engaged manner.

Read between the lines. You can seek additional information from the interviewer to understand the reason for the question being asked. For example, when asked about being willing to work long hours that extend beyond routine work timings, or how good a team player you are, take cues from what is being asked; go ahead and gain clarity about expectations from the role as also the work environment and team culture in the department.

To hear what the speaker has to say and also letting him/her see that you follow all that is being communicated while you are being interviewed is a valuable skill that will go a long way in not just landing the job but also in subsequent career advancement.

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