The Importance of Active Listening in Job Interviews

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by Shareem Aannan, VCCS

Congratulations! You’ve landed a job interview. You should be proud. According to an article on Inc., on average, every corporate job opening attracts an average of 250 applicants; but only 4 to 6 of these people will be called for an interview. So if you’re called in for an interview know that you are part of a very select group. But obviously this is only the first hurdle, and the second hurdle - the interview itself - is even more critical. One of the biggest mistakes people make during interviews is not listening. I mean actively listening...not just hearing. Learning to be an active listener doesn’t come naturally for everyone.

How well you listen, and convey that you’re listening, has a major impact on your interview effectiveness. We all have that friend or acquaintance who we sometimes struggle to carry on a conversation with because you spend half the time talking past each other. Even though they seem to be engaged, and actively participating in the conversation, in actuality they already have their mind set on what they want to say, and nothing you say impacts their response. Improving your listening skills requires practice. You must make a conscious effort to listen not only to the words that the other person - in this instance, the interviewer - is saying but more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent. Try not to formulate your answer or counterpoints before the interviewer is finish speaking.

Learning to become an active listener requires a certain level of honesty and self awareness. In other words, know your natural tendencies. If your natural tendency is to not be a good listener, or to be argumentative, the added stress of job interviews tend to accentuate these negative qualities. If you’re not sure, ask a close friend or relative who you trust to be honest. Even though it is important to have a few pre-rehearsed responses to common interview questions, failing to listen keenly and respond accordingly will reflect poorly on you. Research suggests that we remember between 25 and 50 percent of what we hear. If you spend too much time focused on what you want to say and not enough time listening to what the interviewer is saying then you’ll end up talking past each other, which will ultimately frustrate the interviewer. Your responses should be no shorter than 30 seconds and no longer than two minutes. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your ability to perform during interviews.

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