Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Active Listening in an Interview

My son likes to argue. He calls it debating. However, we have explained to him over and over that debating is a discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal. He on the other hand does not discuss, he argues. It’s his way or no way. Our bet is that he will either be a politician or a lawyer. We were even looking at a DVD from when he was two years old. He and his sister were pulling laundry out of a hamper and tossing it into the laundry room. While recording the event I told him that he missed a couple pieces in the bottom of the hamper. At two years old he looked at me straight in the eye and rattled off some jabbering which was clearly him arguing even then! So it’s always been that way. As he’s gotten older he pulls out what he considers facts & figures to back up his position yet no source to back up this information he pulls out of thin air. At times it is actually quite comical.

Besides the arguing he also has a habit of talking over people. Mostly us but on occasion others as well. We have tried over and over to explain that he cannot listen while he is talking. So instead of listening to someone he instead is formulating what he wants to say and then will start talking over the person before they have finished what they were saying. Because he is in a Communications class at school this semester it seems like a prime opportunity for him to hear from someone else besides us that he simply cannot listen while talking. So I told him to ask his Communications teacher. He said he would, however when I followed up with him last week he still had not done so. His response, “I don’t need to because I know I’m right.” I told him to do some research on his own then to find the answer to whether it is physically possible to listen while you are talking. No response.

While this rages on with no clear conclusion in sight it does bring up some very important points when you are engaged in an interview. From time to time when following up with a client after interviewing a candidate the feedback is:

1. The candidate tried to control the conversation.
2. The candidate talked over me.
3. The candidate wouldn't let me finish my questions.
4. The candidate went on too long with their answers.
5. The candidate seemed preoccupied and not listening.

Sounds like my son was interviewing. These are very real pieces of feedback I've received. And every time the candidate was not chosen for further conversation. So active listening skills are indeed critical in an interview. Thoughtful and to the point responses are critical to it being successful. Knowing your role in an interview is also a critical key to a successful interview. And being prepared with questions is another key piece.

Now taking each item one by one.

Active listening: The way to become a better listener is to practice "active listening." This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.

Thoughtful and to the point responses: Be thorough in your responses but be to the point. Don’t go on and on. You may need to ask a question to better understand exactly what the interviewer wants to know by asking the question you are responding to. This allows you to relay the relevant information they seek.

Knowing your role: You are the one being interviewed. Absolutely you should have questions prepared. That is expected. However present your questions as appropriate. Never try to control the interview. Granted there are interviewers that would rather not be interviewing but would rather be attending to their work. And in these situations you may need to “guide” the interview to an extent. But typically the interviewer will be guiding the interview.

Be prepared with questions: While I touched on this already I can’t stress this enough. Do your homework. Being prepared makes a statement that you are interested. In addition your questions should allow you to extract information from the interviewer that will allow you to provide pointed and informational answers. Your questions will allow you to be in a better position to interact beyond just the interview questions. Will allow you to learn what is critical to them. What do they want to see in a person’s background. What has allowed people to be successful in this role.

While my son doesn’t think I know what I’m talking about….rest assured this information will indeed help you in an interview.

Scot Dickerson, CPC | President
Capstone Search Group