It is only natural for a job applicant to want to tell the interviewer all about himself, his accomplishments, and his experiences that make him the perfect candidate. The best part of an interview, however, may be what the candidate does not say – and when he doesn’t say it!
If the supervisor or hiring manager follows our advice, she will make the interview a conversation, not an interrogation. A conversation is dialog, a two-way street. That means both parties take turns speaking, and that means interviewees have to be willing to listen as well as talk. The effective listener, and the one who gains an advantage in the job hunt, is not a passive sounding board. He adopts active listening skills that enable him to pick up clues as to the company’s culture and what the interviewer wants to know about the candidate. A candidate who is receptive to those clues will tell the interviewer she has found the right person for the job.
Active listening means giving the speaker your full attention and transmitting subtle indications that you are doing so. Make her feel she is the most important person in the world and that what she is saying is the most fascinating information you have heard all week. If you really want the job, it will not take much acting. Concentrate on the interviewer. Offer non-verbal feedback such as a smile, a nod, or a slight lean forward, to show your interest. You will convey that you are earnest, enthusiastic, empathetic, and engaged – all characteristics most organizations cherish in their employees.
More importantly, though, active listening prepares your senses and subconscious mind to receive and process the tone, context, and subtext of what the interviewer says. Here’s how a well-placed silence on your part can pay off in an interview:
Interviewers are fountains of knowledge about their companies’ way of conducting business, how they value their employees, their organizational structures, their management styles, and their culture. Active listening skills will help you latch onto the crumbs of information dropped by interviewers. By putting them all together you can shift the focus from what you have done and what you know to how those skills and experiences can benefit the employer.
Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants. Ann has been coaching candidates on interview skills since ISC’s inception in 1999. You can reach Ann directly at AnnR@ISCJOBS.COM.