Active Listening

When all that’s standing between you and your dream job is an interview, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the pressure. Sometimes, it’s easy to get so caught up in what you should be saying and doing in a job interview that you tune out what’s actually going on.

These basic tips will allow you to reap the benefits of active listening without dragging down the pace of your interview.

Focus, Focus, Focus 

So many of our daily conversations are interrupted and ultimately degraded by a whirlwind of external distractions. In a job interview, you can’t afford to let anything take your eyes off the prize. Get in the habit of mentally reminding yourself to focus every time your attention begins to drift. If you’re flighty by nature or not blessed with the heartiest of attention spans, this may take some practice. 

Hear With Your Ears -- And Your Eyes, And Your Brain 

Communication experts say that less than 10% of the meaning of any conversation is in the actual words that are being said. It’s up to you to glean other clues from the context of what’s being said. Listen to your interviewer’s tone of voice and keep a close eye on his or her facial expressions and body language to get the full picture.

Put Yourself In Your Interviewer’s Position 

Another important aspect of active listening is having a sense of empathy for the other speaker. In the context of job interviews, this involves a bit of mental role-playing. If you were the one asking questions, what would you want to hear? If the tables were turned, how you rate yourself as an applicant?

Paraphrase and Query to Fine-Tune the Q&A 

When you’re engaging in active listening during a job interview, the lines between “interviewee” and “interviewer” may be blurred a bit. If you don’t understand a question, or if you just need a quick clarification, it may help to summarize what you think your interviewer wants to know and ask for confirmation before proceeding. To avoid slowing the pace of the interview, however, avoid excessive repetition -- it often works just as well to mentally summarize the questions before you answer.

Complement these strategies with what communication experts refer to as the “active listening posture” -- shoulders held straight, head and body inclined slightly toward the other speaker, and hands either engaged in taking notes or folded on the lap or the table. Before you know it, you may be “listening” to a job offer! 

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